Martin Ferguson Smith, The Artist Helen Coombe – The Tragedy of Roger Fry’s Wife, Paul Holberton Publishing
Présentation de l’auteur :
Helen Coombe was the wife of the artist and art critic Roger Fry, who was to join Virginia Woolf and a dozen or so others in the Bloomsbury Group. Although this highly original book contributes much to knowledge of Roger Fry, it focuses throughout on Helen Coombe’s life and work. It reveals a strong-minded individual, who, with little financial support from her family, trained and became established as an artist whose genius won the admiration of her contemporaries. It presents examples of her fine work, including stained glass and decorations of musical instruments. The serious mental illness, which erupted soon after her marriage and was identified long after her death as schizophrenia, was a tragedy for her, for her husband and family, and for British art: in the last 27 years of her life, she never lived at home, never saw her children, and never fulfilled any commissions. There are strong indications that her illness’s root cause was genetic, but that it was aggravated by Roger Fry’s behaviour. He wanted a wife who would take second place to his artistic career and ambitions. This did not suit her, and in every episode of her illness she turned against him. Two of his later lovers, Vanessa Bell and Josette Coatmellec, also found him “impossible”, and, when the latter committed suicide, Virginia Woolf wondered “how long can Roger love a woman without driving her mad”.