Amber Jenkins is a second year PhD Student in English Literature at Cardiff University. She is a member of the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research at Cardiff, and is researching the influence of the Hogarth Press on Virginia Woolf’s compositional processes.
Conversations in Colour and Ink: Printing and Painting at the Hogarth Press and the Omega Workshops
While Virginia Woolf conversed enthusiastically about visual art at Bloomsbury meetings, she often articulated feelings of isolation from the ‘silent’ world of the visual artist. Frustrated by Bloomsbury’s intention to relinquish the illustrative and literary aspects of painting, this paper will highlight the ways in which Woolf used her publishing company, the Hogarth Press, to draw attention to the similarities between visual and literary modes of representation. Considering Woolf’s first two productions at the Hogarth Press, Two Stories (1917) and Kew Gardens (1919), it will expose how Woolf’s hand-printing practices, cover designs, and the inclusion of woodcuts in her publications, enabled her to initiate a dialogue between visual and verbal modes of communication.
Paying particular attention to Kew Gardens, the paper will expose the ekphrastic impulses articulated by Woolf after viewing Vanessa Bell’s painting, A Conversation (1913-1916); Woolf’s short story, the paper will suggest, materialises these impulses, and verbalises the silence of Bell’s composition in literary form. Examining the woodcuts provided by Bell for the publication of Kew Gardens, this paper also proposes that these images can be read as visual revisions of Bell’s earlier work. In aiming to position the Hogarth Press as a central component of Bloomsbury aesthetic innovation, the paper will reveal the visual parallels between Hogarth publications and the books produced at the Omega Workshops, particularly the 1918 publication Original Woodcuts by Various Artists. Using the two copies of Original Woodcuts held at the Special Collections and Archives of Cardiff University, the paper will expose the fundamental influence both Woolf and Bell played in the production of this book, and situate both sisters as central components of Bloomsbury artistic production.