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The Secret World of the Bloomsbury Group

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by Amanda Aldinger

On Tuesday I traveled to Northwestern’s Block Museum with my Fashion, Body and Garment class to see their current exhibit, “A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections.” As a big Virginia Woolf fan, I was excited to experience artwork created by her and the Bloomsbury Group – a handful of British artists whose art, literature and social theories had a huge impact on British culture. Upon first entering the exhibit, I wasn’t really thrilled with the aesthetic of what I was seeing. Much of it was painted in dull, muted tones and the craftmanship was sometimes mediocre and not wholly inspiring. Because it was a class trip, we had a docent who led our tour through the exhibit, and as she provided wonderful background information on the Bloomsbury artists- Virginia Woolf, her sister Vanessa Bell, E. M. Forster, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes and Lytton Strachey – it became clear that their art wasn’t about changing the face of art history, or creating ambitious new mediums. It was about documenting their experiences as artists, living and experiencing the world communally, and how their engagement with one another influenced their cultural lives.

Whether or not their art was groundbreaking, the work that came out of the Bloomsbury Group made a seminal impact on the framework of British culture, and it’s a history that’s worth noting. Their exploration of textiles, ceramics, furniture, painting, landscapes and print publication is something that any culturally-minded individual could take interest in. It’s just on display until the 14th, so if you’ve time this weekend I’d definitely recommend going and engaging in a bit of cultural history.

For more information, go to: http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/exhibitions/current/bloomsbury.html

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