Inspiration is the key!
In the process of reading Virginia Woolf’s novels and essays you just can’t ignore the fact that she was part of the most controversial group in 1930s England: the Bloomsbury group. Created through an informal meeting of former Cambridge graduates, the group ended up representing and influencing Britain in the years between the two World Wars. Virginia Woolf was probably the most popular member, joined by E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, William Plomer and Laurens van der Post. In the visual arts, the group could count on Virginia’s sister Vanessa Bell (née Stephen), Duncan Grant, Dora Carrington and Roger Fry, along with economist John Maynard Keynes or critic Desmond MacCarthy.
There is no doubt that Virginia’s desire to oppose the Victorian life she had been living for years had found a home and a purpose, encouraged by people who felt the same way and in addition valued the arts with the same importance.
Even relationships within members of the group resembled nothing of the Victorian era: homosexuality or bisexuality was not a taboo and was never intended as one to break in order to shock society. The open-mindedness with which the group basically approached everything was not manufactured, manipulated or intended for specific purposes, but was more of a natural reaction to what the members had been through, a common sensitivity which was in fact the common ground on which would be built ideals and also relationships between one another and with the outside world. What was later preached as ‘flower power‘ was already there, minus the flower.
Today, Bloomsbury is one of the most vibrant places in London. Literature students, lovers of Modernism and casual tourists hang around Gordon Square imagining Virginia Woolf’s exit from the main door of the place she used to live in. Bookstores of the area look both old-fashioned and up-to-date with the latest trends. The group not only established an approach to the arts, but also an approach to life, something which never grows old and continues to amaze and inspire.
Many people compare the 1930s to the present day: recession is among us, unemployment is on the rise, even fashion items recall that period. One cannot really tell if it’s the 1930s influencing modern times or the other way around, but surely in both times there was a sense of uncertainty that prompted a reaction. Those ghosts are not there to haunt us, but to give us answers. The Bloomsbury group’s lifestyle and teachings are ghosts that hang around because we need them, because we call them.
The writings and the paintings of the Bloomsbury group have the quality and ability to throw us back to another time, take us on a trip to experience a vaste range of emotions that are strongly tied to the period and at the same time recall familiar feelings.
Will we be able to find writings and paintings that will someday remind us of the time we’re living now? Or will we have to call for the Bloomsbury group to fill in for that?