“I love the people. I married into the people.” Reputed to have been said by Ottoline Morrell in a political speech.
Though Lady Ottoline has been ridiculed by various commentators, included in works of fiction, and generally sent up, she must be complimented for her support of rising talent and gifted persons. In addition to Gertler she patronised (and in some cases had affairs with some of these artists) which in the pre-Bloomsbury days included painters like Charles Conder and Augustus John. Both artists painted her portrait and it was in Conder’s studio in 1906 that she first saw some of John’s pictures. A short time after John was introduced to her by Conder and both were mutually fascinated by the theatricality of each other’s appearance and manner. On a subsequent visit to John’s studio, Ottoline was introduced to Clive and Vanessa Bell who was described as having “the beauty of an early Watts picture, melancholy and dreamy.” Ottoline was ineluctably drawn to artists and intellectuals, most of which resulted in complex entanglements, not exclusively artistic, and usually of an intimate nature. Through Bloomsbury she also met painters like Simon Bussy (above) and Roger Fry, both of whom painted her portrait, though she described Fry’s as painted in “indifferent colours.” Much to his delight, Fry found that the chatelaine of Garsington was well-informed about developments in modern French art which helped their friendship to grow. On a trip to Paris in 1909 Ottoline had visited a post-impressionist exhibition with Dorelia John, and on another occasion had visited Matisse’s studio. In 1911, on the day before Fry embarked for Turkey, friendship turned into an affaire which threw Fry into confusion. Ottoline had probably allowed this to develop secure in the knowledge that Fry was on the point of departure, though he considered delaying his journey. Luckily, Fry remained blissfully ignorant of the fact that at this time Ottoline was seeing both the philosopher Bertrand Russell and the painter Henry Lamb!
 Quoted in Michael Holroyd, Augustus John, (Chatto and Windus, 19996), 262.
 Frances Spaulding, Roger Fry: Art and Life (Black Dog, 1980), 136.
In 1921, a young Aldous Huxley published a satirical novel about the lives and loves of eccentric individuals in a country house. Crome in the novel Crome Yellow was modelled on Lady Ottoline’s house in Oxfordshire, Garsington; and the characters were partly based on Ottoline and the notable intellectuals, painters, writers and fashionistas she gathered around her. Huxley met his first wife, the Belgian Maria Nys there; she is shown along with Ottoline, Lytton Strachey, Grant and Bell in a famous photo of the Bloomsbury coterie, though Shone does not see Ottoline as “Bloomsbury in the strict sense” due to patronage of “anti-Bloomsbury” intellectuals like D.H. Lawrence. Also shown in this photograph is a young Mark Gertler who during his time at the Slade was called by Christopher Nevinson in his autobiography a “Jewish Botticelli” because of his racial origins and his good looks. Born in Spitallfields in 1891, Gertler was the youngest child of Polish-Jewish immigrants. Showing a precocious talent for drawing, Gertler enrolled in various schools, but had to drop out due to lack of financial means. In 1908 Gertler came third in a national art competition, and thanks to another Jewish artist, Rothenstein, the young East Ender enrolled at the Slade for four years. Here Gertler met the painter Dora Carrington who along with Gertler may figure as characters in Huxley’s Crome Yellow. His passion for Carrington was never requited and Gertler spent most of his time with the homosexual Lytton Strachey, who to complicate matters was loved by Carrington. It was through Ottoline that Gertler gained his entry into the Bloomsbury Group, and this enabled him to meet brilliant minds like T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf. Another protégé of Ottoline’s circle, D. H. Lawrence, declared that Gertler’s darkly, menacing Merry-Go-Round was “the best modern picture I have ever seen.” Similarly to Huxley, Lawrence would eventually fall out of favour with Ottoline because he based a character in his Women in Love on her. The edginess of Gertler’s later pictures may have been caused by tuberculosis which forced him into sanatoriums during the next two decades. His friends, Lawrence and the New Zealand writer Katharine Mansfield, a satellite member of Garsington, would die of this disease. Though Gertler’s art was admired by the Bloomsbury Group, there were lingering doubts about his personality which seemed to have notable defects. After a visit from Gertler in 1918, Virginia Woolf was characteristically merciless in her assessment of the young genius: “Good God, what an egoist!” We have been talking about Gertler to Gertler for some 30 hours; it is like putting a microscope to your eye…He hoards an insatiable vanity. I suspect the truth to be that he is very anxious for the good opinion of people like ourselves, & would immensely like to be thought well of by Duncan [Grant], Vanessa [Bell] & Roger [Fry]. His triumphs have been too cheap so far. However this is honestly outspoken, & as I say, he has power & intelligence, & will, one sees, paint good interesting pictures, though some rupture of the brain would have to take place before he could be a painter.” That “rupture of the brain” may have contributed both to his talent and depression at his life-situation. Gertler gassed himself in 1939.
“You’re the only one now Henry James has gone who uses language as a medium of art.” Roger Fry on Virginia’s Woolf’s “The Mark on the Wall.”
If one were asked to curate an exhibition of the work of the two famous Bloomsbury sisters, one might show a selection of Vanessa’s self-portraits next to Virginia’s writings such as A Room of One’s Own: painter and writer side by side. Yet, things are not so clear-cut: Vanessa penned private memoirs, recently edited and published; Virginia wrote a biography of her friend Roger Fry and attended his exhibitions. Moreover, Fry’s remark suggests that in the Bloomsbury circle there was a certain interest in a modernist paragone, a comparison of different kinds of art. It is not for this art historian to ponder the question of whether Woolf’s writing is of a “post-impressionistic” nature, though some art historians more familiar with the visual and textual Bloomsbury canon have tried to use Fry’s comment (and others) to frame these kind of aesthetic debates. For example, Frances Spalding has examined letters from Virginia to Vanessa in which the former comments on paintings by the latter, in the process musing on how she could write such pictures as Three Women (above) in prose. This didn’t happen but Spalding considers the Woolf’s short story “The Mark on the Wall” which eschews plot, character in favour of a “roving consciousness” which alights on objects aided by memory. Disconcertingly, the Woolfs were handed the first four chapters of Joyce’s Ulysses whose stream of consciousness method paralleled her own. Perhaps this accounts for Woolf’s grudging acknowledgement of Joyce’s genius when he died in 1941. He got there first! Then there are the series of four paintings of Woolf done by Bell where the face is left blank which might indicate “a progression towards abstraction,” or the kind of silence described in some of Woolf’s novels like The Voyage Out.
 Quoted in Frances Spalding, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision ( NPG, 2014).
Vanessa Bell: Sketches in Pen and Ink, edited Lia Giachero, (Hogarth Press, 1998).
 Spalding (VW, 103) mentions Woolf having dinner with Fry and Bell. Fry asked her “wether she founded her writing on texture or structure. The question which derived from Fry’s familiarity with the visual arts, reverberated in her mind, and became part of her thinking about the aesthetic of the novel.”