13 January 2017 at 4.02pm | 13 Comments
With the triptych being inspired by the writings of one of the greatest figures in literature, Virginia Woolf, we've traced the writer's history through the locations that inspired her:
Adeline Virginia Stephen was born at 22 Hyde Park Gate in Kensington on 25 January, 1882. As Virginia Woolf, she was to become one of the most significant figures in London’s literary society and a leading modernist and feminist thinker.
She came from artistic stock; her father Sir Leslie Stephen was an eminent editor and critic who exposed his children to an influential Victorian literary crowd. Her mother, who died when Virginia was just 13 years old, had been a model for the pre-Raphaelites, a group of English painters.
In her early years, Woolf lived in the white town house with her three siblings Vanessa – later known as Vanessa Bell – and her two brothers, Thoby and Adrian Stephen.
St. Ives, Cornwall
‘Why am I so incredibly and incurably romantic about Cornwall?’, wrote Woolf in her diary in 1921. She spent every summer of her childhood in St Ives at the family holiday home, Talland House. The wild coast was to make notable impressions on her writing.
Godrevy Lighthouse, which stands 86ft tall off Porthminster Beach, is thought to have inspired Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. She signed the visitors’ book in autumn 1892 and the book was later sold at auction for more than £10,000.
In 1910, Virginia Woolf was part of the infamous (and to modern minds somewhat unsavoury) Dreadnaught hoax, organized by her brother while he was at the University of Cambridge. It was executed by a group of his friends that would later form the Bloomsbury Group, a spin off from the exclusive Cambridge society, The Apostles. The group caught the train from Paddington to Weymouth, where they enacted a prank on the Royal Navy, claiming to be a delegation of Abyssinian royalty and convincing the armed forces to give them a tour of their flagship HMS Dreadnought. Woolf donned a fake beard an Orientalist regalia for the occasion.
As they toured the vessel to a guard of honour, the group muttered among themselves in Latin and Greek to the bemusement of the crew, and even attempted to bestow fake military honours on some of the sailors. When the prank was uncovered after the group's return to London, the incident caused the Navy a good deal of embarrassment in the press for several months.
After the death of her father in 1904, Woolf sold her house near Hyde Park and moved to 46 Gordon Square with her brothers. It was to be the first of five Bloomsbury addresses at which the writer would reside. It was here that Woolf became close to members of the Bloomsbury Group including founding writer Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant, her soon-to-be husband Leonard Woolf and other artists like the poet Rupert Brooke.
St. Pancras, London
In 1912 in a humble registry office on Judd Street, Virginia became Mrs Woolf. Despite her prevailing battle with bipolar disorder over the coming decades, Woolf attested all her happiness to her husband Leonard – her final written words read, ‘I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been’.
In 1914, the Woolfs moved out of central London to Richmond. The following year they moved to Hogarth House in Paradise Road and established The Hogarth Press – publishing work of T.S. Eliot among other contemporary writers, including Woolf herself.
It was later bought by the Leonard Victor Ingrams who founded the Garsington Opera festival, which from 1989 to 2011 was held each summer at the manor (and which now continues at the nearby Wormsley Estate).
‘It will be an odd life, but… it ought to be good for painting’, said Vanessa Bell of her relocation to Sussex with her lover Duncan Grant. Vanessa’s house, Charleston, became the country meeting place for the writers, artists and intellectuals of the Bloomsbury Group and was situated only a short distance from Woolf’s own country cottage.
The house still retains work by the Bloomsbury artists, including murals, painted furniture, ceramics and textiles. Bell and Grant created beautiful walled gardens in the grounds in the 1920s, with a grid of gravel paths to divide up each section of floral colour.
The Woolfs bought the 18th-century cottage Monk's House in Sussex in 1919 and lived there full-time after their flat in Bloomsbury was damaged during an air raid in 1940. The cottage is situated three miles from Lewes and is near the River Ouse, where Woolf would drown herself a year later.
Woolf Works runs 21 January–14 February 2017. Tickets are still available.
The production is given with generous philanthropic support from David Hancock, Randa Khoury, Linda and Philip Harley, Victoria Robey, The Woolf Works Production Syndicate and an anonymous donor.