A painting of three women in conversation. The woman on the left leans into the other two in earnest discussion. They sit in front of an open window with a bouquet of flowers visible.
Vanessa Bell (1879 - 1961), A Conversation, 1913-16 © Estate of Vanessa Bell. All rights reserved, DACS 2021

A Conversation

Vanessa Bell

Vanessa Bell was one of the most distinctive and innovative modern painters in Britain before and during the First World War.

 A Conversation  is one of her major achievements, which she worked on at various points over several years. Bell used bold colours and simplified forms to depict three women in deep discussion. The arrangement of the figures and the close grouping of the women’s heads give the gathering a sense of drama and a conspiratorial air. The painting’s scale and strong visual impact suggests the conversation is of great significance, although we are left to imagine what is being discussed.  Bell was a major figure among the avant-garde artists and writers known as the Bloomsbury Group. Perhaps with this work she was paying tribute to the values of friendship and enlightened debate that characterised the group. The work retains its original frame, which was also painted by the artist.

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Two men sit across from each other at a table covered with a brown tablecloth, playing cards. Both men wear overcoats and hats, and the man on the left smokes a pipe. They sit inside a wooden building. i Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) The Card Players, around 1892-96, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)