Lecture on Dora Carrington, The Tragic Muse of Bloomsbury

Lecture on Dora Carrington, The Tragic Muse of Bloomsbury

20 Jun 2024

In June The Arts Society Horsham was treated to a  fascinating lecture by Alan Read on the life and work of Dora Carrington, weaving through the complex web of relationships that occurred when her life collided with the Bloomsbury group. 

Carrington, as she wished to be known, won scholarships that helped to secure her a place at the Slade School of Fine Art, where she was tutored in the true Slade tradition with its distinctive technique and style to which she remained faithful throughout her career.

After a deep but troublesome relationship with Mark Gertler, it was the biographer Lytton Strachey who captured her fascination and devotion from the moment they met.  When Carrington was persuaded to marry Ralph Partridge he also became Lytton’s lover - this was Carrington’s “triangular trinity of happiness”.  They set up home at Tidmarsh Mill together and much of her work from this time related to the people and places around them.

The circle of friends with the Bloomsbury Group expanded, interlocking, overlapping and immortalised in the many portraits by Carrington, including the iconic portrait of Lytton.  Liaisons were formed and dissolved, including affairs with Julia Strachey (Lytton’s niece), Gerald Brenan and Beakus Penrose.  But for Carrington the only constant love was Lytton whose death spelt the end of everything.  After Lytton, life lost its anchor and meaning for Carrington and she committed suicide when she was only 38.  

The tragedy of Carrington is perhaps more than the entanglements of triangular love but also represents the feminist struggle in the patriarchal society of the time.  Much of her work was only rediscovered some forty years after her death.  

An exhibition of Carrington’s work will be held at Pallant House, Chichester in November this year.


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