This work first came to public attention at an exhibition of Vanessa Bell’s drawings and designs held in 1967. The exhibition was organized by Folio Fine Art, a short-lived commercial entity which worked alongside the better-known and longer-lived Folio Society. A Girl was described in the exhibition catalogue as the design for a ceramic tile. ‘The simplicity of the tile designs reduced the artist’s style almost to its essence. These particular examples were probably for Phyllis Keyes, but it is doubtful that they were ever carried out […].’ Bell and her partner Duncan Grant met the potter Phyllis Keyes in 1931, and they worked with her for a number of years in the 1930s. Keyes supplied them with ceramic blanks, ranging from vases to tiles, and assisted with the firing of painted ceramics.
The design is executed in the loose manner which Bell developed in the 1910s. (Where her oil paintings after the end of the First World War became increasingly built-up, saturated and developed, her decorative work inherited the freedom of line, colour and abstract composition which she and Grant pursued so fruitfully between 1910 and 1918.) The figure in A Girl is depicted in profile and indicated with a rapid outline, with three broad masses – the head, the upper arm and the forearm – related in a triangular layout. Areas of tone in grey and red give only a fleeting indication of modelling. The group of blue dots behind the figure serve to fill the space in decorative, uncomplicated terms.
Folio Fine Art, London Charles Craig, Jr., Santa Barbara, 1967 Craig Hendrix, South Carolina, by descent Sandra Christians-Miller, Santa Barbara, gifted by the above Private Collection, London
1961, London, Folio Society, Vanessa Bell: Drawings and Designs, 10 - 24 Nov. 1967 1984, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, British Painting, 19 Jan. - 14 Aug. 1982
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