Gwen Raverat by Frances Spalding
"The best of these Darwins is that they are cut out of rock - three taps is enough to convince one how immense is their solidarity." So wrote Virginia Woolf affectionately of Gwen Raverat, the granddaughter of Charles Darwin. In this biography, France Spalding creates a moving portrait of Gwen's character, her life and her art. It begins in late-Victorian Cambridge, which Gwen herself amusingly described in her childhood memoir "Period Piece". But Frances Spalding looks behind and beyond the pages of this much-loved book. She explores Gwen's Darwin inheritance, her conflicts when she moves beyond her home environment to enter the Slade School of Art, her encounter with Post-Impressionism, and her friendships with Stanley Spencer, Rupert Brooke, and members of the Bloomsbury set. Central to her life is her husband, the Frenchman Jacques Raverat, who emerges as a vivid, courageous personality. At each stage, Gwen's artistic creativity is interwoven with her relationships and circumstances. She helps revive the medium of wood-engraving and, with Jacques, celebrates the South of France in the art they produce while living in Venice. In the late 1920s her abiding love of Cambridge draws her back to a corner of England with which she is inextricably associated. Finally, her life comes full circle in old age when she moves into The Old Granary that once formed part of her childhood home. In this authorised biography Frances Spalding draws on a huge cache of unpublished papers to bring us a life lived with bravery, humour, realism and integrity, surrounded by a remarkable cast of relatives, friends and associates.