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Duncan Grant - Still life with oranges and lemons

Duncan Grant

Still life with oranges and lemons

Oil on canvas: 18(h) x 14(w) in / 45.7(h) x 35.6(w) cm
Signed and dated lower right: D Grant / 60

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Rothiemurchus, Inverness 1885 - 1978 Aldermaston, Berkshire

Ref: BZ 128


Still life with oranges and lemons


Signed and dated lower right: D Grant / 60

Oil on canvas: 18 x 14 in / 45.7 x 35.6 cm

Frame size: 26 ½ x 22 ½ in / 67.3 x 57.2 cm





Robert Adler;

Christie’s London, 12th June 1987, lot 270, as Oranges and a jug on a table

Mrs Henry Ford II, Turville Grange, near Henley-on-Thames



Duncan Grant’s cousin, Dorothy Strachey[1] had married the French painter Simon Bussy in 1903 and in the following year they acquired La Souco, a house at Roquebrune Cap Martin, not far from Menton. Over the following years this house became a calling point for visitors to the South of France, people going from France to Italy and for Dorothy Bussy’s extensive family and friends, in particular Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell and French writers such as André Gide, Paul Valéry and Roger Martin du Garde. The Bussys divided their year between La Souco and summer visits to England where Simon Bussy made studies in the London Zoo for his famous pastels of, above all, birds and monkeys. In the later 1930s they gave up living at La Souco and moved into a flat in Nice. They frequently let the house: André Malraux lived there at one moment, as did the diarist James Lees-Milne and his wife Alvilde; T.S.Eliot spent his second honeymoon there in 1957.


In the early months of 1960, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, accompanied by Grace Higgens, the cook-housekeeper at their home in Sussex, flew to the South of France for a four-month stay at La Souco. By then Simon Bussy was dead and Dorothy, frail and forgetful, was in London looked after by her daughter Janie. Bell wrote to friends in England that although the house was still lovely, it very much needed care and attention. It was situated well up the mountainside but below the village with splendid views of the coastline towards Monte Carlo. A stepped garden was still well kept, however, and was notable for its orange and lemon trees, its mimosa and oleander. Inside, the rooms were modest in size but elegant, particularly the sitting room with its brilliant yellow walls (which appear in several of Bussy’s interiors). There was a studio but it was not available to the painters, being filled with works by Bussy. There were family visits – Clive Bell, Vanessa’s husband, was staying nearby; later Bell’s and Grant’s daughter, Angelica Garnett, visited as did the painter Edward le Bas.


There were rainy days which kept the painters indoors and this probably resulted in Grant’s spirited still life of oranges and lemons. The fronds of fruit came from the garden; the decorated pot is almost certainly local; and to the right there is a glimpse of the sitting room’s yellow wall. Grant frequently combined, as here, the elements of an interior still life with an exterior view through a window. He liked the contrast of arranged domesticity with natural garden or landscape beyond. He developed this theme most especially in his own home, Charleston in Sussex, but transferred it to other venues such as his and Bell’s house in Cassis in the south of France.






This stay at La Souco was the last of many visits that Grant and Bell paid together to France. Vanessa Bell’s health was already undermined by bronchitis and she died a year later in 1961. Grant lived for another seventeen years, continuing to paint with great vivacity, particularly depictions of his studio with its many still-life elements of flowers and fruit from the Charleston garden.


Richard Shone




Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell                                 Vanessa Bell, Dorothy Busy at La Souco, c.1954

(1879-1961), Painting at La Souco, c.1960             Charleston





Rothiemurchus, Inverness 1885 - 1978 Aldermaston, Berkshire


The painter, designer and central figure of the Bloomsbury Group, Duncan James Corrowr Grant, was born in Rothiemurchus, Invernesshire, the only child of Bartle Grant and Ethel McNeil on the 21st January 1885. He spent his early childhood in India and Burma from 1887-1894, where his father was serving as a Major in the VIII Hussars.  After attending Hillbrow Preparatory School in Rugby from 1894-9, he was sent to St Paul’s School London from 1899-1901 while living with his Aunt, Jane Strachey and family at 69 Lancaster Gate, London. Despite his families hope that he should follow his father into the army, Grant took up painting, entering the Westminster School of Art in 1902.  He travelled to Italy in the winter of 1904-5, where he was inspired by the works of Masaccio and Piero della Francesca.  From 1906-7, he trained at La Palette, under Jacques-Emile Blanche in Paris. Upon his return to England, Grant spent two terms at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1907-8 and developed friendships made through his cousins the Stracheys, in particular with Vanessa, Viriginia and Adrian Stephen, which would form his entrance into the Bloomsbury set. 


In 1910, with lifelong companion Vanessa Bell (nee Stephen), he began a series of decorative figures for a room at Webb’s Court, Kings College, Cambridge (then occupied by John Maynard Keynes).  Amongst many other decorative projects, Grant designed sets and costumes for theatre productions.  He visited Greece, Turkey, Tunis and Sicily and in the summer of 1911 painted two scenes to decorate the Borough Polytechnic dining hall.  Roger Fry founded the Omega workshops in 1913, which Grant co-directed with Vanessa Bell, producing furniture, pottery and textiles before it closed in 1919. In 1916, in support of his application for recognition as a conscientious objector, Grant joined David Garnett in setting up as fruit farmers in Suffolk, shortly after which Vanessa Bell found the house Charleston, near Firle in Sussex, where Grant spent most of his life.  Angelica, Grant’s daughter by Bell was born at Charleston in December 1918.  Duncan and Vanessa decorated several houses together including Charleston.  He also produced decorations for the RMS Queen Mary, Berwick Church, near Firle in 1943 and a series of panels for the Russell Chantry in Lincoln Cathedral in 1959.  He was appointed Official War Artist in 1940.


Grant exhibited at the New English Arts Club from 1909 and the Friday Club from 1910.  He was a member of the Camden Town Group in 1911 and the London Group in 1919.  His first solo show was held at the Carfax Gallery in 1920.  Grant was represented at the Venice Biennale in 1926 and 1932 and contributed to the second of Roger Fry’s Post-Impressionist exhibitions of 1912. 


The work of Duncan Grant is represented in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge, the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, Bolton Art Gallery, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Charleston, East Sussex, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, Manchester City Art Gallery, National Museums and Galleries of Wales, National Portrait Gallery, London, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, Princeton University Art Museum, Southampton City Art Gallery, Tate Gallery, London, The Hepworth Wakefield, Victoria & Albert Museum, Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, the UK Government collection, the British Council. 



[1] Dorothy Bussy (née Strachey, 1866-1960). See Richard Shone, The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Princeton University Press, exh cat, Tate, 1999, no.164, p.252.

Other Works By
Duncan Grant:

Duncan Grant - The Gazebo at Charleston


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