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Snapshots of Bloomsbury: The Private Lives of Virginia Woolf

Snapshots of Bloomsbury: The Private Lives of Virginia Woolf by Maggie Humm

ISBN10: 0813537061
ISBN13: 978-0813537061
Author: Maggie Humm
Book title: Snapshots of Bloomsbury: The Private Lives of Virginia Woolf
Publisher: Rutgers University Press; First Edition edition (November 29, 2005)
Language: English
Category: Europe
Size PDF: 1435 kb
Size ePub: 1838 kb
Size Fb2: 1771 kb
Rating: 4.3/5
Votes: 691
Pages: 240 pages

Snapshots of Bloomsbury: The Private Lives of Virginia Woolf by Maggie Humm

In this enthralling portrait, Maggie Humm makes available for the first time a trove of barely known photographs, both amateur and professional, casting new light on the private lives of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell as well as the historical, cultural, and artistic milieux of their circle in Bloomsbury and beyond.

            We visit the domestic lives of major nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers and artists, such as E. M. Forster, who is pictured happily engaged in the task of pruning trees with Leonard Woolf. We see T. S. Eliot and his wife, Vivienne, and Thoby Stephen “Kodaking” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There are intimate portraits of Vanessa Bell’s children and erotic photos of Duncan Grant’s lovers. Also included are many photographs of a happy and contented Virgina Woolf, which provide an often neglected balance to our sense of her as neurotic and eccentric.

            The parade of characters is long and full, including Cyril Connolly, Vita Sackville-West, Roger Fry, David Garnett, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Walter Sickert, Clive Bell, the Stracheys, Dora Carrington, John Maynard Keynes, and many more. The domestic photographs, taken predominantly with the enormously popular vest-pocket Kodak cameras of the time, are complemented by professional photographs by Man Ray and Gisèle Freund.

            Beyond illustrating the remarkable range of the Woolfs’ and Bell’s aesthetic vocabularies, the photographs pose an important challenge to language-centered critiques of modernism. Drawing on Foucault and gender, memory, and psychoanalytic theory, Humm shows how modernism is indebted, more than we realize, to the popular culture of photography.

            Meticulously researched and painstakingly organized, this unique book brings critical insight to the uncatalogued photographs from the Harvard Theatre collection and the photographs of the Tate archives. In doing so, Snapshots of Bloomsbury makes a major contribution to Woolf scholarship.


If you are looking for a round up of the extensive group of people that contributed to what became known as Bloomsbury, you will be disappointed. There are some players that are generously represented and others, such as Sidney Saxon-Turner, Dora Carrington and Ralph Partridge, barely or not at all. As significant a drawback is the size of many reproductions. Whole album pages have been reproduced, which in and of itself is interesting, but is reduces the size of the photos such that frequently the people are so small as to be unrecognizable. Many of these photos have been reproduced in larger and more satisfactory formats in other biographies and memoirs. Also strange, even within the context, the quantity of photos of nude children reproduced here. Having just reread Quentin Bell's bio of his aunt Virginia I bought hoping to fill out the visual record. No such luck.

I really enjoyed this book. I could pore over the fashions, the interior decoration - it satisfied my desire to see all the details! At the same time, I got a sense of the passage of time in Virginia and Vanessa's lives. Read as a companion to any of Woolf's novels, I think the book would also convey a sense of the writing process.

It evokes the time and place beautifully, and the text is not intrusive: the images are allowed to take centre stage as works of art in their own right.

Fine choice, Sweetpea!

Nutty yet poignant

Have we found the smoking gun here? I doubt it

Bloomsbury has a posse!