Biography and History

Clive Bell was born on September 16, 1881, in East Shefford, Bedfordshire, England. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he befriended the writers and artists that later became the Bloomsbury group. Throughout his career as a writer and art critic, Bell would be identified as part of this group both by close association and aesthetic sense.

In 1907 he married Vanessa Stephen, the painter and elder sister of Virginia Woolf. They had two sons, Julian and Quentin.

Bell was an early champion of modern art and an important art critic as a result of his objective style. Bell's friendship with Roger Fry contributed to the development of Bell's artistic theory of “significant form” which he explained in his book Art (1914). Bell's other volumes of art criticism include Since Cezanne (1922), Account of French Painting (1932) and Enjoying Pictures: Meditations in the National Gallery and Elsewhere (1934).

Bell wrote about more than just art; he explored politics, society, and history in On British Freedom (1923) and Civilization: An Essay (1928), as well as literary criticism in Proust (1928). In Old Friends: Personal Recollections (1956), Bell's only autobiographical work, he recounts in part the emotional bonds and intellectual attitudes of the talented Bloomsbury group.

Bell died in London in 1964.

Source: From the finding aid for C0912

  • Clive Bell Correspondence. 1922-1962 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0912

    The Clive Bell Correspondence collection consists of letters received by the English writer and art critic Clive Bell (1881-1964) from Raymond Mortimer, Harold Nicolson, and V. (Victoria) Sackville-West ["Vita"]. Their content reflects both personal and professional matters.

  • Harold Nicolson Papers. 1884-1962 (inclusive), 1925-1961 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0913

    The Harold Nicolson Papers consists of papers of the English diplomat, journalist, and biographer Harold Nicolson (1886-1968). These papers primarily contain correspondence received by Nicolson, but there is also a large series of letters written by Nicolson to Richard Rumbold, as well as a few to others. Also included in the collection are manuscripts and/or working notes for four of Nicolson's published works. Furthermore, there is a small amount of papers of others, chiefly correspondence by and to Nicolson's wife, "Vita" (Victoria) Sackville-West.