Carrington’s work is inherently autobiographical; she painted places where she lived and people she loved. The subject of her most famous portrait is the author Lytton Strachey, with whom she lived from 1917 until his death in 1932, followed two months later by her own suicide. Much is known about Carrington’s life as she was a prolific letter writer, corresponding with the artistic and literary greats of the time, including Gerald Brenan, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, Rosamund Lehmann and fellow Bloomsbury group member Virginia Woolf. Carrington is also depicted in fiction; she is Mary Bracegirdle in Aldous Huxley’s ‘Crome Yellow’ and Minette Darrington in D H Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love’. VP
Carrington drew Bedford Market on a rare trip home from the Slade a year after entering the school. She found the contrast between the freedoms of London and the Edwardian society of the small market town of Bedford unbearable. Her brother Noel wrote that, though Bedford was only fifty miles from London by train, it ‘might have been almost a thousand for all the cultural influence then exercised on it by the metropolis’.
In her first year at the Slade, the teaching emphasis would have been on draughtsmanship and Carrington produced two distinct styles of drawings; an academic one in which form and modelling were predominant, as seen in her life drawings, and the more linear style seen in Bedford Market and other works such as Cockney Picnic (c.1911). Both of these styles show her scrupulous attention for detail and eye for arrangement.
The view point of Bedford Market is from Bedford High Street looking onto St Paul’s Square, where the market is still held today. The names of Bedford traders on the market stalls and shops can be clearly seen, as can the gravestones from the Church in the far left corner. VP
REFERENCES: Noel Carrington, Carrington, Paintings, Drawings and Decorations, Thames and Hudson, 1980, p.16 (ill. b&w); Gretchen Gerzina, Carrington, A Life of Dora Carrington 1893-1932, Pimlico, 1995, p19; Jane Hill, The Art of Dora Carrington, The Herbert Press, London, 1994 p.14 (ill. b&w)
Purchased with the assistance of The National Art Collections Fund and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund
Spanish Boy, c.1924.
Oil on canvas, 63.5 x 50.8cm.
Accession No.: P.993
Spanish Boy was probably painted in Yegen, Spain at the home of Gerald Brenan, with whom Carrington was having an affair. Brenan regularly held musical evenings and it was at one such night that Carrington wrote of witnessing a beautiful young man singing: ‘Then a young man with a face so beautiful that it is imprinted on my memory so that I could draw every feature…His hat was tilted back from his face and showed his rather bulging forehead with a shining highlight on it. He had a most amazing mouth a short upper lip with a slight curl... Suddenly the profile altered, the eyes glittered wildly the mouth opened, the forehead puckered. A strange wailing song came out and his whole body shook and the face became contorted with sadness and passion. It was a most moving song.’ VP
PROVENANCE: Purchased from the artists family
This work, produced when she was at the Slade, is an excellent example of the academic style of drawing that she had developed there. The sitter is her brother Noel whom she often persuaded to sit for her on visits home to Bedford. VP
Fragment of a letter to Margaret Burr, about 1910
This fragment is all that remains of a letter to a friend of Carrington's named Margaret Burr, referred to here as Marmie, who had attended Bedford High School at the same time as Carrington. The illustration of a bee in the top left corner makes reference to Margaret’s nickname.
Carrington was an avid letter writer throughout her life, but very few letters survive from her time at the Slade. This letter was written whilst she was staying at Byng Place, London a respectable hostel for students and makes reference to a visit from her sister Lottie visiting her for tea. VP