100 Heroes: Duncan Grant

The gay man who became one of the key figures in the Bloomsbury Group.

100 Heroes: Duncan Grant

Duncan Grant was a British painter and designer of textiles, pottery, theatre sets and costumes. He was a member of the Bloomsbury Group.

Early life

Grant was born in 1885 in Scotland.

His father was a major in the army, and much of Grant’s early childhood was spent in India and Burma.

Between 1887 and 1894 the family lived in India and Burma, returning to England every two years. During this period Grant was educated by his governess.

He showed an early aptitude for art and painting, and he went on to study at Westminster School of Art.

Bloomsbury Foundations

In 1909, Grant moved to 21 Fitzroy Square, where he occupied two rooms on the second floor of the building on the west side of the square. A few doors away, at 29 Fitzroy Square, lived Adrian and Virginia Stephen (later Virginia Woolf). Grant became close friends with Adrian Stephen and spent a lot of time at their house.

Career in art

Grant is best known for his painting style, which developed in the wake of French post-impressionist exhibitions mounted in London in 1910. He often worked with, and was influenced by, another member of the group, art critic and artist Roger Fry. As well as painting landscapes and portraits, Fry designed textiles and ceramics.

Personal life

Grant’s contemporaries were well aware that he was a gay man. His lovers included his cousin, the writer Lytton Strachey, the future politician Arthur Hobhouse and the economist John Maynard Keynes, who at one time considered Grant the love of his life because of his good looks and the originality of his mind. Later relationships included David Garnett, and Paul Roche.

Grant also had a long friendship with Vanessa Bell, and they lived and worked together for an extended period.

Through Strachey, Grant became involved in the Bloomsbury Group, where he made many such great friends including Vanessa Bell.

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