Charleston – Meeting point for the most radical British artists and intellectuals of the early C20
Once home and studio to modernist painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, central to the Bloomsbury Group, barely a surface has been left untouched by their paintbrushes. Whether a wall, door, mantelpiece, or chair, the artists and their friends have applied their alternative eye and artistic vision.
What was once a simple farmhouse of brick and flint walls set among the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park, is a place of pilgrimage for anyone interested in decorative and applied arts. Not only were they carving a new way aesthetically, they rejected the restrictions set upon them by their parents’ generation. Liberalism was central to their way of life, rejecting societal norms and embracing fluidity, resulting in many intertwined relationships. It was this freedom that pulled mindsets out of the Victorian era and into Modernism.
Escaping from the gloom of London and realities of wartime, the Bloomsbury Group and extended friends and family gathered at Charleston, with many a house party, captured by the lens of Vanessa Bell, a keen photographer. Nearly all conscientious objectors, they focused on artistic and intellectual pursuits, experimentation and creating their own rules.
In 1913, Roger Fry (with co-directors Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant) formed the Omega Workshops, with a collective of artists, all whom were interested in French Post Impressionism. The idea was to create a small but regular stream of income for artists, when patronage was scarce and on the brink of the Great War. All pieces were marked with the symbol Ω, he last number on the Greek alphabet meaning ’the last word’. At the time their closest model was the Wiener Werkstätte, the artist and architects of Vienna Secession, including Josef Hoffman. Many pieces at Charleston were made by the Omega Workshops.
Today, Charleston continues to champion changemakers, embracing ideas and creativity to provoke new ways of living and thinking through their all year round calendar of exhibitions, events and festivals.
Recently, Charleston, and specifically Duncan Grant, provided the inspiration to Dior’s creative Director Kim Jones – for the Dior Men Summer 2023.
Take a virtual tour and experience Charleston remotely and download their App. Wander around the walled garden, or lounge by the pond surrounded by bird song, or go room by room on a virtual house tour.
The Charleston Festival 17th – 29th May 2023.
From Henry Dimbleby challenging the food system and his book ‘Ravenous’ to Forward Prize-winning poet Kim Moore and feminist writer and activist Laura Bates, whose latest book ‘Fix the System, Not the Women’ is a rallying cry for societal reform.