The life of the painter and designer Duncan Grant spanned great changes in society and art, from Edwardian Britain to the 1970s, from Alma-Tadema to Gilbert and George. This authoritive biography combines an engrossing narrative with an invaluable assessment of Grant's individual achievement and his place within Bloomsbury and in the wider development of British art. 'Spalding's skill is to sketch out the intricate emotional web against the bright bold untouchable figure of the artist. . . Her achievement is to let that sense of a man living with his craft shine through on every page: the result is an exceptionally honest and warm portrait. ' Financial Times
Biographer of Bloomsbury luminaries Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry, British art historian Spalding has produced a captivating biography of another key Bloomsbury figure, post-impressionist painter and designer Duncan Grant (1885-1978). Born in the Scottish Highlands and raised in India until he moved to London at age 14, Grant emerges as a mercurial, impractical, often histrionic and jealous man, who was also endearingly down-to-earth and indifferent to fame, and who hobnobbed with people at all levels of society, always eager to partake of new experiences. Drawing on a trove of Grant's unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries, Spalding candidly illuminates Grant's complex private life, from his relationship with painter Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolfe's sister), with whom he had a daughter, Angelica, in 1918, to his numerous affairs with such men as Lytton Strachey (his cousin), John Maynard Keynes and literary critic David Garnett. In 1942, young Angelica married Grant's ex-lover Garnett, adding yet another twist to the Bloomsburies' ever-changing musical chairs of sexual and romantic partnerships. Enlivened by photographs and art reproductions (including eight color plates), this engagingly gossipy biography scans Grant's entire oeuvre, from portraits, landscapes and mythological scenes to erotic art, ceramics, costume and set design. Meticulously documenting Grant's daily doings, his travels from Seville to Cyprus, and his encounters with everyone from E.M. Forster to Andre Gide and D.H. Lawrence, Spalding vibrantly conveys the texture of the Bloomsbury group's emotional and creative life.