Quentin Bell, levitating ladies and Goggleboxes


Quentin Bell (1910-1996) was the son of Clive Bell and Vanessa Bell and the nephew of Virginia Woolf. In 1964 he was appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University; later, Professor of Art History and Theory at the University of Sussex from 1967 to 1975.

He worked principally in ceramics but a series of sculptures included mythological or artistic allusions, plus a sprinkling of levitating or invisible ladies; the sculpture near the pond at Charleston is probably his best known.


There is also a public work in the Leeds University collection here, for which this smaller maquette also exists:

In the early 1970s, he worked on a series of so called ‘Goggle boxes’ – essentially peepshows or dioramas which drew on the same imagery as the sculptures above. This work below has  electric light and is a complex room scene with 4 individual wall paintings and the night sky with stars visible through the window. The levitating woman – or rather her chaise longue and discarded clothing – takes centre stage. What does the imagery tell us of the man?


Presently in a private collection, this work deserves a wider public location for its quirky representation of one of the last Bloomsbury artists.


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