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Block Museum Winter Exhibition Focuses on Bloomsbury Group

Exhibition to be accompanied by film series, lectures, talks, performance and more

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January 15, 2010 | by Judy Moore
View images from the exhibit's opening night and sample images from the collection.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- More than 150 paintings, works on paper, vintage small-press books and decorative objects that reflect the creativity of Britain's Bloomsbury group are part of the winter 2010 programming at Northwestern University's Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus.

"A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections" exhibition runs from Jan. 15 to March 14, in the Block Museum's main and Alsdorf galleries. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Bloomsbury group -- an informal circle of friends, relatives, spouses and lovers whose members included writers Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey and economist John Maynard Keynes -- are widely credited with changing British culture in the first half of the 20th century by bringing literature, art, social thought and domestic life into the modern age.

The exhibition focuses on the work of Virginia Woolf's sister Vanessa Bell, the critic and painter Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey's cousin Duncan Grant and Strachey's longtime companion Dora Carrington. Influenced by European post-impressionists like Paul Cezanne and Henri Matisse, they challenged Victorian art and design with experimentations and innovations in form and representation.

Assembled from collections across the United States, "A Room of Their Own" includes oil, watercolor and gouache paintings along with ink and pencil drawings. It also highlights illustrations for books published by Hogarth Press, founded in 1917 by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Furniture, textiles and other home furnishings from Fry's Omega Workshops will be on display as well. A related 272-page catalogue featuring 301 color and black-and-white illustrations is available at the Block Museum for $35.

To see digital images of works from the exhibition, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/exhibitions/current/bloomsbury.html.

To complement the exhibition, the Block has scheduled an array of related events and programs, many of them free. They include:

            • docent-led tours of the exhibition at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Jan. 16 to March 14

            • a four-part Saturday matinee series at Block Cinema that begins at 2 p.m. Jan. 16 with the 1995 film "Carrington"; admission is $6 for the general public; $4 for Northwestern faculty, staff and students

            • a three-part Bloomsbury lecture series starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23 that includes discussions of Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes

            • a 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7 performance of Eileen Atkin's "Vita & Virginia," a play adapted from the correspondence between Woolf and the writer Vita Sackville-West

            • "The Arts of Crafts" hands-on workshop at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, for families with children aged 6 to 10; advance registration required; to register e-mail blockeducation@northwestern.edu

            • a 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25 book club discussion on Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own"; admission is $20 for the general public, $15 for Northwestern faculty, staff and students. Advance registration required; to register e-mail blockeducation@northwestern.edu

            • a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27 symposium titled "New Looks: The Social Life of Art and Design in Bloomsbury"

            • a 6 p.m. Thursday, March 11 gallery talk on the exhibition by Block Museum curator Corinne Granof

For information on these and other scheduled Block events and film screenings, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/calendar and www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/block-cinema

A companion exhibition, "Only Connect -- Bloomsbury Family and Friends," will run from Jan. 14 to April 30 at Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive. It will explore the Bloomsbury group as a network of friends and families through original books, manuscripts, letters, photographs and drawings by Bloomsbury luminaries. It also will include works by their siblings, parents, children, friends and lovers. The material is drawn from Northwestern's Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections.

The Alumnae of Northwestern University will present a 10-week continuing education non-credit daytime course, "The Bloomsbury Era Revisited," Jan. 7 to March 11. Open to the public, it will be taught by Northwestern faculty at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive. For information on registration and course fee, visit www.nualumnae.org.

"A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Cultures" was organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., in conjunction with Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, N.C. It is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.