In Colour – Sickert to Riley

Kitchen Still Life, 1948
6 March – 26 August 2019

Opening on 6 March, Charleston’s second exhibition in the new Wolfson Gallery positions the work of former Charleston residents – Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) and Duncan Grant (1885-1978) – within a century of great British colourists, including William Scott.

Curated by London-based textile designer, Cressida Bell, granddaughter of artist Vanessa Bell, the exhibition will feature a broad-ranging and highly personal selection of works that reflect Cressida Bell’s personal aesthetic as well as her artistic heritage.

Bell and Grant were two of the first abstract painters in Britain, and, even when they were creating figurative and representational work, the abstract qualities of colour remained a dominant element.

Drawing on loans from private and public collections, the show will feature works by some of the greatest painters of the last century including; Eileen Agar, Robert Bevan, Francis Cadell, Patrick Caulfield, Robert Dukes, Mary Fedden, Mark Gertler, Patrick Heron, John Hoyland, Stanislawa de Karlowska, Paul Nash, Glyn Warren Philpot and Sean Scully, as well as the Bloomsbury artists; Bell, Grant and Roger Fry.

Virginia Woolf called her sister Vanessa Bell “a poet whose medium was colour.” The Bloomsbury group’s modernist treatment of colour broke with accepted artistic conventions of the day. The freedom of abstraction allowed Bell and Grant to play with colour and shape in new ways; their paintings typical of the 20th century move towards colour dominating composition. This abstract idiom provides a new context for examining the painting of the Bloomsbury group, as radical painters who saw colour as the most vital component of an image.

‘I spent time at Charleston as a child, and the house and the painters who lived there have informed my sense of colour ever since. This show comes out of my years of working with colour as a designer, both within and beyond the Bloomsbury palette. It’s my personal selection of 35 exciting and above all gorgeous works by 20th century British artists; works where colour is the driving force, where each one tells a different story through the beautiful and striking combinations of colour in play. I’m fascinated by the power of colour, by the way it can change the mood and create a vibe that ranges from the bright and exuberant to the wistful and the ethereal. By assembling an eclectic mix of great British colourists seldom seen exhibited together I’m inviting you to see them in a new light – the light of colour.’ Cressida Bell

Opening Times

Wednesday- Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Monday and Tuesday closed


Adult £7 (£7.75 with Gift Aid donation)
Friends of Charleston Free
Concessions £6 (£6.75 with Gift Aid donation)
Child (under 18) Free


East Sussex

Tel: 01323 811626


Exhibitions | Spring/Summer 2019