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 Duncan James Corrow Grant  (1885 - 1978)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/England/Scotland      Known for: mod figure and genre painting

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Ad Code: 2
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Nude with a Flute
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Duncan Grant was born on January 21, 1885 in Rothiemurchus in the Scottish county of Inverness, the only child of Major Bartle Grant. Both of his grandmothers were English and much of his boyhood was spent in India, where his father's regiment was stationed, but there were journeys home on leave every two years.

Because his parents were still abroad, he found an antidote to his misery at school, when he spent his holidays with the family of his father's sister, Lady Jane Strachey, a remarkable, highly cultivated woman who had ten children. One of his cousins was Lytton Strachey who became a leading member of the Bloomsbury Group with whom Grant's artistic interests were awakened. In 1899 Grant entered St. Paul's School in London, where he would have prepared for an Army career. He was expected to concentrate on mathematics of which he understood nothing. Lady Strachey persuaded his parents to let him go to the Westminster School of Art in London. There he received much encouragement and advice from Simon Bussy, a French artist, but he achieved no particular distinction there and was refused admission to the Royal Academy School.

Far more important than classes in his early development was his journey to Italy in 1902-03. In 1906 he spent a year in Paris, where he especially studied the Chardins in the Louvre. While there he was captivated by the French Impressionists. On his return to London he entered the Slade School of Art, but only remained for half a term after which he took a studio in Fitzroy Square where he could work independently. In the early 20th century, Grant studied with Jacques Emile Blanche in Paris. An enthusiastic traveler, he journeyed to Sicily, Tunisia and Greece. He revisited France in 1909, calling on Matisse at his home near Paris. Back in London, he was introduced to that brilliant circle of friends known as the Bloomsbury Group. He became increasingly receptive to the French Post-Impressionists.

This exxciting and productive period was suddenly interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. Grant announced his stand as a conscientious objector; he worked on farms in Suffolk and Sussex, but did not neglect his painting. In 1916 he began working on the land at Charleston, a house in Sussex that was to be his home for some sixty years.

Grant was closer to the core of the Bloomsbury group than any other painter of his generation. He belonged by birth and upbringing to that circle of intellectuals of which Bloomsbury was largely composed. As a young man he had exceptional charm both of appearance and manner and although he never married he was close for many years to Vanessa Bell and the object of both Maynard Keynes's ans Lytten Strachey's first real passions.

For a period after the initial impact of the post-impressionist exhibitions, Grant's abilities as a decorator found fertile ground in the Omega Workshops, established in 1913 for the dual purpose of providing financial support for young artists and of disseminating the ideas inherent in post-impressionism. During World War II Grant lived quietly in Charleston. His painting underwent no marked change and he still practiced two distinct styles: the decorative, which included the many set and room designs he had done and the richly painted, solidly three-dimensional works. His home at Charleston had become a meeting place and summer residence of the Bloomsbury Group.

He died on May 10, 1958 at the age of ninety-three, having grown a long beard that gave him the appearance of an aged sprite in a fairy tale.

Written and submitted September 2004 by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

"World Artists 1950-1980" by Claude Marks.

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