This painting captures a quiet moment—a book has been left on the chair and the door left ajar, someone has arranged flowers in a vase (just clipped) and placed a chair at the edge of the garden (for whom?). When I look at it, I imagine a million stories, but most of all it invites me into a summer day that was long ago, and yet still bristles with life, that blue door, the slant of light, the hollyhocks, the rooks will alight any minute, and I feel like I’m there, a welcome guest. Stay as long as you like. Put your feet up. Tea will be along in a moment.
Vanessa Bell (1979-1961), perhaps best known as the younger sister of Virginia Woolf, was also a serious artist who painted and created textiles and was part of the Bloomsbury Group, famous for their unconventional art and way of life. She co-founded the Omega Workshops, a design collective, as a way to express her interest in the decorative arts and change the look of English interiors (She grew up in a dark old Victorian home in London).
“View into the Garden” was painted at Charleston, Bell’s farmhouse in the countryside of Sussex (the place where she most loved to be), and it shows how she incorporated home and domesticity into her art. But, what many would say about Vanessa is that it worked both ways—she created art from her life and life itself was her art.