I’ve been looking at early 20th century paintings of domesticity and conversations and came across this artists Vanessa Bell. There is something about these pictures which really draws me in.
Its not just the way they are so domestic and intimate but also the materiality of the painting and techniques used to lay in the colour.
I am also drawn to the difference in the spaces. The Conversation 1913–16 is very much depicting the intimate moment, perhaps they are a group of friends or drawn together through a mutually interesting topic (it appreas they may be in a box at the theatre) but the depiction of the proximity within which the conversation is taking place brings a depth to their conversation.
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Vanessa Bell – Conversation 1913–16
The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
© Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett
Photo © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
These two paintings are from the Camden Town Group at the turn of the 20th Century.  As the Tate says “Camden Town paintings where women appear in solitary activities such as reading, playing the piano, or simply sitting in reverie, Bell’s sitters are here rendered in intense and active conference. “(Moorby, 2012)
The atmosphere of Conversation Piece at Asheham 1912 gives a very different feel. Again the sitters appear to share a common ground, the two figures on the right seem to be listening to the earnest speach from the person on he left. He is leaning forward into the space, despite this he is still relaxed, there is no tension in his stance. It feels like he is recounting an experience rather than delivering bad news or even exciting news.

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Vanessa Bell – Conversation Piece at Asheham 1912
University of Hull Art Collection
© Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett
Photo © University of Hull Art Collection, Humberside, UK / The Bridgeman Art Library

The Art of Conversation1963 by René Magritte  is very much in his own style. He says of his work that it is not part of the surrelaist movement and that “It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.” (MoMa, 2018). The uncanny nature of his work is often attributed to the suicide of his mother when he was fourteen, but this is not something which he confirmed prefering to atttach his work to the mysterious rather than the personal.

It is less about the mysterieous nature or the depiction of the two men in conversation floating about in the sky that drew me to this image but, in part the title, but more than that the way he has created a moment of contact between the two figures. They seem very observed, as if he had sat, perhaps over coffee in a cafe and watched these two men deep in conversation and the image had stayed with him. They seem so connected.

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Biography

B.G., M. (2018). http://imagespoetrysilence.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-art-of-conversation-by-rene.html

MoMa (2018) MoMA | René Magritte. The Lovers. Le Perreux-sur-Marne, 1928. Available at: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/rene-magritte-the-lovers-le-perreux-sur-marne-1928/.

Moorby, N. (2012) ‘Her Indoors: Women Artists and Depictions of the Domestic Interior’.