Divine, is the only way to describe my total absorption into the world of Virginia Woolf recently.
Not only was I privileged to explore the recently opened Virginia Woolf inspired exhibition at the Tate St Ives on a personalised tour with director Anne Barlow. But I also spent a whole day at Porthmeor Studios with two renowned Virginia Woolf experts.
The intriguing new Woolf exhibition, housed in the new extension is inspired by her writing. It offers a narrative with a feminist perspective on landscape, domesticity and identity through modern and contemporary artwork. The exhibition includes some outstanding work by Laura Knight, Gwen John, Vanessa Bell, Winifred Nicholson, Sandra Blow, Barbara Hepworth, Claude Cahun and Dora Carrington.
Inspired by the premise of the exhibition I then joined a small group of twenty on a windy but bright study day, in St Ives. Sarah Phillips and Claire Nicholson, our Masters on Woolf for the day, bestowed on us a deeper insight into the Virginia life. Focussing particularly on her St Ives inspired novel To the Lighthouse, one of my particular favourites, the study day further opened my eyes to the influence of her childhood in Cornwall on her writing. Symbolically the rare glorious sunshine illuminated the stunning seascape beyond the studio window’s, making it easy to understand how Woolf had been so taken with the landscape that surrounded her during her early years.
Claire Nicholson, is a specialist in Modernism, the history of women’s writing and Virginia Woolf who frequently lectures in Cambridge. Sarah Phillips, who has made a career of studying the Bloomsbury art and literature has more recently focused her attention on Woolf as a Cubist Writer. Both knowledgeable speakers on all things Woolf, they are naturally also Executive members of the Virginia Woolf Society.
Unfortunately, I shall miss the Virginia Woolf: Art and Ideas conference, scheduled at the Tate St Ives on the weekend of the 2-4 March. Delivered by a huge collection of highly respected speakers and focusing on Landscape & Place, Performing Identity, Still Life, the Home & The Private Self, the conference will no doubt offer further in-depth insight into Woolf’s personal life and writing.