The Bloomsbury Group was a group of writers, artists and other intellectuals, who used to meet at the house of the Stephen sisters (better known under their married names of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell) in the Bloomsbury district of London. Their brother, Thoby started bringing his Cambridge University friends to meet his sisters at their house. The group was initially very much influenced by the philosopher G E Moore. It was Moore’s philosophy (and, to a lesser degree, that of Bertrand Russell) that brought the group together on serous topics but also made them exclusive. Indeed, for some time, very few of the group produced creative work known outside their circle. E M Forster was one of the few who had any critical success prior to 1910. However, what has become known as Old Bloomsbury, i.e. the early group, counted among its number art critics Clive Bell, husband of Vanessa Bell, née Stephen and Roger Fry (also a painter) and the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. In 1910, Roger Fry put on an exhibition of post-impressionists, a group that was essentially unknown in London at the time, which set the tone for the Group’s non-conformist views on art.
The Group changed somewhat during World War 1. Some of them moved out of London. Vanessa Bell left her husband and moved in with Duncan Grant when his wife went insane. In 1916, they moved into a farmhouse called Charleston, near Lewes in Sussex. Bell and Grant decorated it themselves, showing that the Group was prepared to merge the concepts of fine and decorative arts. Other members of the group also spent much time here. Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard had set up the Hogarth Press at their house in Richmond in Surrey. The Hogarth Press would go on to publish not only the works of the Group but also authors such as Katherine Mansfield and T S Eliot and many translations from the Russian. The group would also meet at the home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, Garsington Manor. The members of the Group would go on to publish influential works of literature, particularly those written by Virginia Woolf. However their goals may have best been summed up by one of their group, John Maynard Keynes who said in his paper My Early Beliefs Our prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge. Of these love came a long way first. While the Group did not formally break up, the death of Lytton Strachey in 1931, Roger Fry in 1934 and Virginia Woolf in 1941, by suicide, hastened their demise. The Group was and continues to be attacked for being elitist, which is certainly the case, but its influence on English art and literature is huge.
Books about the Bloomsbury Group
Frances Spalding: The Bloomsbury Group (National Portrait Gallery Insights)
Maggie Humm: Snapshots of Bloomsbury: The Private Lives of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell
S. P. Rosenbaum (editor): A Bloomsbury Group Reader
S. P. Rosenbaum: Early Literary History of the Bloomsbury Group
S. P. Rosenbaum (editor): The Bloomsbury Group: A Collection of Memoirs and Commentary
Richard Shone: The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant
Richard Shone: Bloomsbury Portraits