Thursday, 7 February 2008

Bloomsbury below stairs - Grace Higgens at Charleston, 1920–1970

This exhibition is a unique opportunity to see the famous Bloomsbury Group in a very different light. Grace Higgens- affectionately known as ‘the angel of Charleston’ was the cook and housekeeper at the group’s country escape in Sussex for over 35 years where she looked after the Bell family and other prominent members of the Bloomsbury group such as the Woolves and Keynes.

Through the archives of Grace Higgens, you can see the unconventional members of this famous group in a very ‘domestic’ and intimate way. The extracts from Grace’s diaries and correspondence; the photos and shopping lists and recipes on display show the circle of friends from the inside out and provide very deep insight into their culinary tastes, domestic habits and family life and laughs. You also however get to know Grace herself as an attractive, bright, loyal and well loved member of the household who was not without culinary talent and idiosyncrasy. There is a note from Virginia Woolf asking Grace for a cake recipe and she also features in the ‘Charleston Bulletin’ having caused quite a stir when she paraded in front of the local vicar in riding breeches.

This exhibition with its colourful features, displays of cover designs and kitchen objects succeed in conjuring up the warmth and charm of the house and what it was like in the artistic hands of the Bloomsbury Group and the domestic brilliance of Grace, commemorated by a plaque in the kitchen –‘ a good friend to all Charlestonians’.

Bloomsbury below stairs is at the British Library at the Folio Society Gallery 30 January 2008 – 20 April 2008

1 comment:

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