Thursday 12 August 2010

Dora Carrington. 1893-1932.

Photos of Dora Carrington are rare, but here she is holding a cat that looks remarkably like our Freddie.

Dora Carrington (known simply as 'Carrington') was, with Vanessa Bell, one of the better female painters of England's early 20th Century. Although not an actual member of London's Bloomsbury Group she will always be associated with them; and especially with Lytton Strachey.

Her 1916 portrait of writer Lytton Strachey (above) along with that by Henry Lamb of 1914, are perhaps the two most iconic portraits of that early Bloomsbury era.

Carrington was an ex-Slade girl, and became an essential member of London's fashionable bed-hopping bi-sexual intelligencia of the 1920's. She had affairs with members of both sexes, but her real love in life was the homosexual writer, and intellectual, Lytton Strachey. When Strachey died in 1932, she felt betrayed and rejected, and could no longer face life without him. It was claimed at the time that as he lay dying, his final words had been that he'd always wanted to marry her (this is probably false). He left her a large sum on money in his will, but this did nothing to console her grief, and she committed suicide a couple of months later.

Carrington never really bothered to sell her work, and hardly ever bothered to sign it either. She ended her life as one of England's most neglected top-rank female painters; and even today, with a popular film having been made about her life (Emma Thompson played Carrington in the 1995 film), she is still generally ignored.

If there is a period in English Art where 'Englishness' is personified, it is within the period of Bloomsbury's influence, where intellectualizing was far more important than commercializing. Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, and Carrington were all responsible for this attitude, and much of that influence still lingers on today, especially within the extensive English Art College world.


  1. Cro, thanks for this post,what a sad life for this lady at the end.I have not heard of her but as usual your posts stir the inquisitive part of the old brain to want to look for more information on a topic and on this one I shall.
    Happy days to you.

  2. That story is so sad. "Can't buy me love!!!" Sorry, oops, I'm digressing over to The Beatles now

  3. The account of Lytton's behaviour does not surprise me, Cro, I have a good friend who married into the Strachey family, and they are all barking, and utterly self absorbed. I spent many years seeing her through the torment of the whole Strachey tribe turning against her, and now - thankfully - she is secure and sorted, along with her two lovely children who I have known since they were babies. Her eldest son will inherit the title when his uncle dies, and bloody good luck to him.

  4. To many they might sound like a romantic family, but the reality, I'm sure, is quite different. I hope your friend's son survives his title.

  5. This post took me back to my university days where I was so enamored of anything Bloomsbury that I held my cigarette like Virginia did and spent months wearing corduroy skirts because I read that she favoured wearing them too.


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