Challenging Convention at Laing Art Gallery


The twentieth century was a time of great change for women in Britain. Those born, brought up and educated in the 19th century and living, forming relationships and working in the 20th saw extraordinary progress. But against that backdrop was their struggle to challenge the conventions imposed upon them by a patriarchal society.

This exhibition explores four important women artists through their lives and work in a climate of modernism, change and increasing emancipation. Each was embedded within a web of artists and intellectuals, each had a significant impact on the profile of women artists within traditional institutions and in the public eye. Through their portraits we see stylistic change, impressions of people and places around them and their emotional and intellectual landscape.

Vanessa Bell held a serious (if rarely articulated) desire to become an artist from an early age. From confident modernism to an independent style her work was created in the unconventional atmosphere of Bloomsbury and Charleston where she created a home with Clive Bell, Duncan Grant and their children. Her modest income and their contribution enabled Charleston’s relaxed environment in which sexual freedom, open debate and experimental art and writing flourished around her.

Bell was a pivotal figure for family and friends; the centre of the Bloomsbury group, first brought together in the home she shared with her brilliant but emotionally fragile sister Virginia. Vanessa helped keep Virginia afloat by careful interventions until her

suicide in 1941, bore three children and successfully managed her companionable marriage to Clive Bell and her brief love affair and long-term friendship with Duncan Grant. These figures and others including Roger Fry, Leonard Woolf and Lytton Strachey were captured in Vanessa’s extraordinary portraits.

This exhibition will be curated by the Laing Art Gallery. With support from The Golsoncott Foundation. Admission charges apply.

Opening Times

Challenging Convention (31 Oct 2020 - 27 Feb 2021)

Guide Prices

Pricing and admission details coming soon



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Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

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