- Occupation: Artist
- Born: March 29, 1893
- Birth name: Dora de Houghton Carrington
- Date of death: March 11, 1932 (suicide)
DORA CARRINGTON'S PAINTINGS
ILLUSTRATED HER LIFE, AND THE
HOUSES SHE SHARED WITH
LYTTON STRACHEY WERE LIKE
PICTURES FOR LIVING IN. EVEN HER
LETTERS WERE WORKS OF ART.
"Do you know, I am never so
happy as when I can paint"
~ Dora Carrington writing to Lytton Strachey, 1932
June 13: New Dora Carrington Store with some gorgeous prints.
- Dora Carrington was an autobiograhical painter, choosing as her subjects the people and places around her and distilling her emotions about them into images of limpid intensity. Her landscapes especially express a heightened sense of place that seems to well up from the unconscious, in the tradition of visionary English artists like Samuel Palmer or Stanley Spencer. Her work, as Michael Holroyd has put it, offers "glowing evidence of her lifelong and passionate involvement with nature and human nature".
The lack of public acceptance of her work in Carrington's lifetime was partly due to her obsessive secretiveness and insecurity, so that she hated showing it. Moreover, she didn't fit easily into any one school, and her acutely self-critical nature meant that her paintings rarely lived up to her own expectations. She often gave them away as tokens of friendship, and many disappeared. For years after her death she appeared as a minor figure in the stream of biographies and memoirs about that oddly mesmeric coterie the Bloomsbury Group, in which she is mainly recalled for her unaccountable passion for Lytton Strachey, - openly homosexual and 13 years older than her - with whom she set up house and stayed for their lifetimes. After his death she shot herself, when she was only 38.
Yet really from the 1990s gradually her following increased - she would be amazed by the prices her surviving paintings reach today in the big auction houses - and the mid-1990s saw a brilliant biography
by Jane Hill; a new collection of her letters; and the quiet good feature film
starring Emma Thompson (good as she is she couldn't hope to do complete justice to Carrington) and Jonathan Pryce as Lytton.
Dora Carrington enrolled at the Slade in 1910 and was considered one of its star students, along with Mark Gertler (with whom she had a long and painful relationship), Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash. She soon dropped her first name, preferring - like other women artists of the time - to be known by the androgynous "Carrington". She had already revolted against her bourgeois background, and taken to the gipsyish life of students and artists, when at 22 she met and fell irrevocably in love with Lytton Strachey, who was attracted by her bobbed hair and ambivalent appearance (she never came to terms with her womanly body).
At first Lytton's Bloomsbury friends were aghast at this unexpected allegiance; Virginia Woolf acidly described an evening when the couple had retired early, apparently for a night of passion, to be found placidly reading Macaulay aloud in her bedroom. But they were seduced by her ingenous originality and by her deliciously funny letters, embellished with sketches of cats and caricatures, which were "completely unlike anything else in the habitable globe", as Virginia Woolf told her.
The Bloomberries were also impressed by her nestmaking talent, which offered a happy solution to the problem of where Lytton should live. Her creativity was loving lavished on Tidmarsh Mill, Berkshire and later Ham Spray, Wiltshire, the two houses she found and decorated for Lytton and herself. Elaborate sponging, brushwork and stencilling techniques were used on the walls and furniture ("I started a decoration of the cellar door yesterday. It looks exquisite. A vineyard scene with Boozing Youths, and a fox contemplating the grapes," she bragged to Lytton in 1925; and every object was chosen by Carrington's faultless sense of colour and detail, from Lytton's counterpane to the cracked but exquisite porcelain.
On visiting Ham Spray Richard Hughes, the author of A High Wind in Jamaica, was struck by "the extraordinary beauty of the inside of the house - a beauty based on little original architectural distinction ... he (Lytton) looked as if he had been designed as the perfect objet d'art to go with the background of the house."
As time went on Carrington, in particular, had to make major compromises for the sake of their menage: she would marry the athletic, goodlooking Ralph Partridge, whom she didn't love, and reject his close friend Gerald Brennan, whom she adored, so that the household would survive. Her (and their) attempts to deal in a civilised manner with "a great deal of a great many kinds of love" were sometimes comic, sometimes agonising. Sometimes she would take refuge in travel, her artist's eye seizing on what was novel and strange.
Despite Lytton's spectacular success with two iconoclastic histories, Eminent Victorians and his biography of Queen Victoria, Carrington was often short of money, and took on all manners of decorating commissions for friends and for patrons. Her decorative art was in a seperate tradition from the Omega workshops, and from Bloombury's country seat at Charleston House, decorated with vigorous slapdash brio by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
Her own work owed more to the stylised influences of English and European folk art: her motis, done with wit and delicacy, were circuses, sailors, fairgrounds, nymphs and cherubs, shells and swags, animals and flowers, and scenes of the countryside that she loved. Her restless inventiveness embraced woodcuts, book illustrations, inn signs, decorated tiles, glass pictures, murals and painted china, lampshades and furniture.
Meanwhile, Carrington loved Lytton for his abilty to live entirely within himself, self-sufficient in his life spent reading and writing, with walks and trips to the post office and visits to friends. But that pre-supposed an adoring "Doric" to cook, housekeep, garden, and entertain a stream of visitors for him. Regular resolutions to do nothing but paint lose out against more pressing demands on her time. "There are so many things for me to do. A lampshade to design, a dresser to paint yellow; Lytton's bed also to paint. Two wood cuts to make and at least 40 letters to write before Christmas ..."
In his wonderfully entertaining 1979 edition of Dora Carrington's letters and diary extracts (out of print), her friend David Garnett commented: "The greatest of her, or perhaps I should say of our, misfortunes was that the men she loved and lived with after her breach with Mark Gerler cared little for painting ... There was nobody to work with her as Duncan Grant worked with Vanessa Bell. In her isolation it [her psychological block] increased, and she became discouraged. I think that this was the greatest harm that Lytton did her, except by dying when he did."
Source: Anne Boston, Country Living Magazine, June 1994
Ham Spray House, nr. Hungerford, Wilts (1932)
On Thursday, 21 January 1932, in the small hours of the morning ... Carrington made the first attempt upon her life. She tried to asphyxiate herself in her car, but Ralph [her husband] discovered her before it was too late. Lytton died a few hours later, from an undiagnosed and inoperable stomach cancer, after months of anxiety.
Lytton was cremated and his brother James took the ashes which Carrington had wanted to bury under the ilex tree...
Despite every effort of her friends to deflect her from her purpose Carrington made a second attempt upon her life on Friday, 11 March 1932, and succeeded. Wearing Lytton's purpl dressing gown, instead of her own yellow one, Carrington shot herself in her bedroom with a gun she had ostensibly borrowed to kill rabbits. Mrs Waters, the carter's wife, made Carrington comfortable at the end; she said that Carrington hoped and prayed she would live long enough to see Ralph one last time and she died not long after he arrived from London.
Carrington was cremated but no one who was there can remember what became of her ashes ...
Source: Art of Dora Carrington Book
Dora Carrington is one of those artists whose life is a fascinating as the work she left behind. She was not yet 39 when she took her life and when she was alive she just wasn't that known as an artist. She didn't sign her work, rarely exhibited and was but a footnote in the history of the Bloomsbury Group. Yet, history has been kind to her and that is in no doubt due to her extraordinary lifestyle.
Carrington (she preferred to be called by her surname as she disliked 'Dora'), was entranced by art at at early age and her parents paid for her to attend extra lessons in drawing. When she won a scholarship to the Slade School of Art in London where she met John Nash and, more importantly, Mark Gertler.
Her association with the Bloomsbury Group was through her long time relationship with Lytton Strachey who she started living with in 1917, and her
lesbian relationship with Lady Ottoline Morrell.
She had love affairs with Mark Gertler, and the writer Gerald Brenan. She married Ralph Partridge in 1921. Strachey was also in love with Partridge, and the complexities of this menage were depicted in the film Carrington (1995).
After Lytton Strachey's death from cancer Carrington found she could not bear life without him; seven weeks later she shot herself.
- Art of Dora Carrington Book Review/Buy
Carrington Movie Review/Buy Dvd
- Went to Bedford School.
- In 1910, started at the Slade School of Art.
- Info added on the painting Farm at Wadenlath
- Info added on the painting Tidmarsh Mill
Lady Ottoline Morrell described her as 'a wild moorland pony'.
- The last photo of Dora Carrington was taken at Biddesden House. A ghostly image, she is see with Pamela Mitford, Ralph Partridge, David Garnett and Frances Partridge.
- Since her death her reputation has been kind of taken away from her and lumped into that of the Bloomsbury Group. It is unfair as she was never really a part of it though, of course, had close relationships with some from that tribe.
- The first retrospective exhibition of her paintings took place in London in 1970.
- She frequently painted over existing canvasses.
- She was a notoriously poor speller.
- Ham Spray House, where Carrington lived and died, is in Hungerford.
- When she died, she was 18 days short of her 39th birthday.
- Her mother was Charlotte Houghton Carrington. Her father, Samuel Carrington, was born on the 21st June 1832, the son of a Liverpool merchant. He worked for nearly thirty years as a civil engineer in India with the East India Railway Company.
- Her younger brother, Noel Carrington (1895 - 1989), was a book designer, editor and publisher. The creation of Puffin Books, the children's imprint of Penguin Books, was down to him.
- Her mother would visit the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition annually.
- She was 17 when she entered Slade. Slade was founded in 1868. Friends there included Barbara Hiles and Dorothy Brett. Brett was nearly 10 years older than Dora.
- 18th July 1928 - to Gerald Brenan, Dora: 'My name ... Dora was the name of a lady he [father] once loved in India dimly in the past...'
- Paul Nash was briefly a student at the Slade at the same time as Dora.
- Drawings executed whilst she was at the Slade included A Cockney Picnic (1911) and Dante's Inferno (1911).
- There is a wonderful photo of Dora Carrington on a Slade School picnic. It's a group photo and among the others are 'Chips' Nevinson, Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, Professor Frederick Brown, Isaac Rosenberg and Stanley Spencer. Bomberg looks especially dandy.
- She left the Slade in 1914.
- The header picture at the top of the page is a prize winning life study from the Slade, completed in 1913.
Recommended Further Reading: Carrington: A Life of Dora Carrington, 1893-1932
Dora Carrington's relationship with the artist Mark Gertler is a fascinating one and worthy of
a trivia section all on its own.
She met Gertler at the Slade. C.R.W. ('Chips') Nevinson also became a friend
whilst at the Slade.
Gertler was born in London in 1891 to Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Whilst
still a baby, his parents were forced to return to tneir nstive Galicia because
of poverty. They reurned to London a few years later.
- He had four older brothers and sisters.
- Grew up in an almost entirely Jewish community in the crowded poverty of the East
- Whilst growing up he only
spoke Yiddish for some time.
- Went to the local polytechnic for art training.
- Oil painting was his best subject; design his worst.
- Found employment as a glass painter to help with expenses whilst studying.
- It was the painter Sir William Rothenstein who spotted his talent and sponsored
him for the Slade. Wrote a letter of praise to his
parents, Golda and Louis.
- Whilst at the Slade, he won prizes for his work and received scholarships.
- By 1912, his work had won praise in reviews in The Morning Post, The Sunday
Times, Observer, Star, Westminster Gazette, Queen, Truth, Manchester Guardian
and the Glasgow Gazette.
- Left the Slade in 1912 to paint full time.
- None of
Dora's letters to
Gertler (who were great friends) have
survived. It is the letters to her that have been preserved.
letter to her in Bedford is addresses: 'D. Carrington, Artist'.
Gertler had a volatile temper.
- Proposed marriage
Carrington on 19th June 1912. Wasn't accepted and Gertler didn't seriously think it would have been.
- Gertler Wanted her to drop
even as a friend in favour of him. This she agreed to.
- He married
Marjorie Hodgkinson. They had a son,
Luke. Their marriage was marked
by ill health on both sides.
Gertler and his wife sperated in January 1939.
- Towards the end of his lifehis work was not going well. He was short of money
and feared a recurrence of tuberculosis which had afflicted him when he was with
his wife. Worried about his work, he locked the door to his studio and turned on the gas
ring and gas stove full force. Several hours later his body was found. He was
Recommended Further Reading: Mark Gertler: Works 1912 - 28
Fairground at Henley Regatta
Cotton Canvas Print
Fishing Boats in the Mediterranean
Cotton Canvas Print
Cotton Canvas Print
Farm at Watendlath
Cotton Canvas Print
Cotton Canvas Print
Cotton Canvas Print
Info. on Tidmarsh Mill added
Tulips in a Staffordshire Jug
Cotton Canvas Print
Art of Dora Carrington Book Review/Buy
Carrington Movie Review/Buy Dvd
Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Gardens Book Review/Buy
Charleston and Bloomsbury // Duncan Grant at Charleston Review/Buy Dvd
The Hours Movie Review/Buy Dvd
Monks House Exterior Photos
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