This pencil study depicts Duncan Grant’s close friend and erstwhile lover David Garnett (1892-1981), known to his friends as ‘Bunny’. Garnett is well-known as a writer and publisher and was the son of the eminent critic, Edward Garnett, and his wife Constance, a pioneering translator of great nineteenth-century Russian writers such as Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy.
Grant and Garnett’s friendship developed in rural Sussex in 1915. Grant was, at the time, falling increasingly in love with both Vanessa Bell and Garnett but was frustrated in relation to the latter due to Garnett’s prevailing heterosexuality. Garnett himself envied the physical relationship Grant then maintained with Vanessa Bell, yet he eventually reciprocated Grant’s affection while they were bound together through their shared conscientious objection to compulsory military service. Over this period, they developed one of the most important relationships in both their lives, with an affair lasting about four years and a friendship until Grant’s death.
The distinctive Wildean forelock of Garnett’s fringe features prominently in this drawing, just as it did in an earlier painting of Garnett by Grant from 1915 (fig. 1). The pipe in Garnett’s mouth is perhaps a humorous device, while the delicate eyelashes – carefully delineated – imbue the sitter with a marked femininity. The drawing is attractively rendered and Grant makes a subtle use of hatching, combining small areas of shading to create a patchwork surface over the paper. This technique closely resembles the post-impressionist broken-brush approach which Grant was developing in his painted work at this time.
With Gekowski Bookshop, London Allen and Beryl Freer At Christie's, London, 23 Jan. 2020, lot 318 Private Collection
2020, London, Piano Nobile, Drawn to Paper: Degas to Rego, 24 June - 24 July 2020, cat. no. 5
Drawn to Paper: Degas to Rego, exh. cat., Piano Nobile, 2020, pp. 14-15
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