Object Details

Bust of Virginia Woolf

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Makers
General Information
Classification
Object Parts
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History
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Location

Street:Mill Lane
Town:Rodmell
Parish:Rodmell
Council:Lewes District Council
County:East Sussex
Postcode:BN7
Location on Google Map
Object setting:Garden
Access is:Public
Location note:In the garden of Monks House
In the AZ book:East Sussex
Page:135
Grid reference:L4
The A-Z books used are A-Z East Sussex and A-Z West Sussex (Editions 1A 2005). Geographers' A-Z Map Company Ltd. Sevenoaks.
OS Reference:TQ422053

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Makers

Name : Stephen Tomlin
     Role:Sculptor

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General Information

Commissioned by: The artist
Construction period:1998 (original July 1931)
Installation date:1998
Work is:Extant
Owner custodian:National Trust
Object listing:Not listed
Description:A shoulder and head bust of Virgina Woolf. A plaque is attached to the wall underneath the bust.
Inscription:Quotation from 'The Waves' on a stone plaque underneath the sculpture:

''Death is the enemy. Against you
I will fling myself unvanquished
and unyielding - O Death!''
The waves broke on the shore.

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Classification

Categories:Sculptural
Object type1:Statue
Object type2:Sculpture
Subject type1:Figurative
     Subject subtype1:Head
Subject type2:Portrait
     Subject subtype1:Head

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Object Parts

Part 1:Plaque
     Material:None
Part 2:Sculpture
     Material:Lead
     Height (cm):41
     Width (cm):39
     Depth (cm):20

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Object Condition

Overall condition:Good
Risk assessment:No known risk

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History

History:'Although she was apinted on several occasions by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and was frequently photographed throughout her life, Virgina Woolf had a morbid horror of being peered at and was notoriously wary of having her portrait made. Stephen Tomlin first proposed sculpting her in December 1924, shortly after their first meeting; but it was not until July 1931 that she finally, and reluctantly, agreed to his request.
The sittings began immediately after she had finished a final rewriting of her most experimental novel, The Waves. The nervous wait for the arrival of proofs was always a trying time for her, and her agony was compounded by Tomlin's slow and exhaustive working method and the remorseless intensity with which he scrutinised her. Even the reassuring presence of Vanessa Bell did not alleviate her 'rage and despair' - 'I waste afternoon after afternoon perching on his rat ridden and draught riddled studio; can't escape', she complained to Dorothy Bussy. To her diary she confided that she felt like 'a piece of whalebone bent'.
Six sittings in all were arranged before Woolf announced that she could bear the torture of being pinned down no more and refused to continue. The sittings ended perhaps only just in time; Leonard Woolf believed that had they gone on much longer she would have become seriously ill; and 'a shadow of her misery' is indeed, as he later wrote, 'frozen into the clay of the portrait'.
The rough surface of the head testifies to its unfinished state, and Tomlin was forced to leave his sitter's eyes blank (as in several of Vanessa Bell's portraits of her sister). But despite his frustration at his inability to bring the piece to a satisfactory conclusion, its impact owes much to its lack of refinement; for, as Quentin Bell has commented, 'Virginia gave him no time to spoil his brilliant conception. Irritated, despondent, reckless, he pushed his clay into position and was forced to give, while there was still time, the essential structure of her face. Her blank eyes stare as though in blind affronted dismay, but it is far more like her than any of the photographs.' An eloquent and perceptive portrayal of an anguished genius, it has long been recognised as Tomlin's masterpiece.
In 1931, or soon afterwards, Tomlin made one plaster cast from his clay bust of Virginia Woolf. (The original clay sculpture does not survive). This was inherited on the artist's death, by Julia Strachey, and given by her to David Garnett.
In 1953, at Garnett's suggestion, the National Portrait Gallery, London arranged to cast the plaster version in lead for its own collection. At the same time, three further casts were made; one for Garnett himself; one for Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West, which remains at Sissinghurst Castle today; and one for Leonard Woolf, which he placed on a garden wall at Monk's House.
Shortly after the casts were completed, the plaster was given by Garnett to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant; it has been a feature of Grant's studio at Charleston ever since.
In 1973 the plaster was cast in bronze in an edition of eight for sale through the Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London: several of these are now in public collections in Britain, America and Canada.
In 1998, the Charleston Trust undertook to commission a third and final edition of Tomlin's sculpture. This edition has been cast in bronze from the original plaster by the Arch Bronze Foundry, a leading fine art foundry in south west London. The edition is limited to eight and each cast is stamped with the founder's mark and individually numbered.
Additional to this edition, two artist's copies have been made, for the British Library in London and for The National Trust. The former, in bronze, stands in the ante-room to the Rare Books and Music Reading room of the new Library building at St Pancras. The latter, in lead, replaces the earlier cast in the garden at Monk's House. Due to the fragile condition of the plaster version no subsequent castings of the bust will be permitted.'

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References

Source 1 :
     Title:Charleston: Virginia Woolf (sales prospectus)
     Type:Archive
     Location:PMSA / UoB NRP archive file
     Publisher:The Charleston Trust. Lewes.


Further information:
#http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-monkshouse/#

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Photographs


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