Painted in warm, golden-green colours, this landscape by Duncan Grant captures the expansive beauty of cornfields and part of the grassy slope of Firle Beacon, a prominent hill on the South Downs in Sussex. Drawing attention closer to us is the distinctive form of a haystack. The familiar rural form was famously explored by the French Impressionist Claude Monet, with a series painted in Giverny between 1890–91. Painted in 1953, in the period that England slowly emerged from post-war rationing, the glow and warmth of Grant’s painting also captures a prevailing mood of optimism and hope.
Firle Beacon would have been a familiar sight to the artist. This ancient Neolithic site is close to Charleston, the converted farm house which Grant shared with fellow artist and long-time companion, Vanessa Bell from 1916. Following the designs for domestic interiors and objects that both artists had produced for the Omega Workshops in London in 1913–19, Grant and Bell continued to produce exuberant decoration for Charleston which survives as a prime example of their design work.
Duncan Grant was born in Inverness in 1885. He studied at Westminster School of Art and also in Paris - where he met Matisse and Picasso - and at the Slade in London. From 1908 he was part of the Bloomsbury group, that included Vanessa Bell, her sister Virginia Woolf and Roger Fry. Grant’s painting style was influenced by the post-Impressionist exhibitions of 1910 and 1912 that Fry organised in London. With Fry and Bell, Grant founded the Omega Workshops to make decorative works. In his later years he lived at Charleston, Sussex, with Vanessa Bell. The pair travelled widely in Europe and spent much time in the South of France. After Bell's death in 1961, he continued painting and travelling and died in 1978 of pneumonia.
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