Charleston

Charleston, photograph by Tony Tree copyright The Charleston Trust
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‘It is not so much a house as a phenomenon’ Quentin Bell once said of Charleston. It was in 1916 that the phenomenon came into being, as Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and David Garnett made the move from Suffolk to Charleston, where Clive Bell and Maynard Keynes were also to be regular visitors. As conscientious objectors Grant and Garnett were exempted from military service providing they continued to work on the land and both found employment on a nearby farm. It was Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who lived locally, who had originally spotted the late 17th century Sussex farmhouse situated at the foot of the South Downs and encouraged Vanessa to make the move. Over the next 60 years the house was decorated by Bell and Grant, they painted walls, doors and furniture and produced decorated ceramics and needlepoint designs for their home.

After the death of Duncan Grant The Charleston Trust was formed to preserve the house and its remarkable collection, it has been described as ‘One of the most difficult and imaginative feats of restoration current in Britain’.

Charleston now hosts an active range of other associated events . Amongst these are a summer school, an annual festival, the Charleston Gallery, the quarterly Canvas publication, the Crafts Council listed shop and the continuing activities of the Friends of Charleston (who are now 1,400 strong).

Venue Type:

Historic house or home, Museum, Heritage site

Opening hours

April-October
Wed-Sun & Bank holidays

Wed - Sat 1300 - 1800 (1200 – 1800 July & August)

Sun & Bank holidays 1400-1800
Last entry 1700

Closed: Mon Tues

Admission charges

Adults £7.50
Children (6-16) £5.00
Themed Fridays (not July & August) £9.00
Disabled £5.00
OAPs (Thurs only) £6.50
Students (Thurs only) £6.50
Unemployed (Thurs only) £6.50

Charleston is the only surviving complete example of the decorative work of Bell and Grant, with walls, doors and furniture painted in their exuberant style. The house shows an evolution in decorative style throughout its different rooms. Initially only Vanessa’s bedroom (now the library), Clive Bell’s study door and window and Duncan’s bedroom were decorated. Later the designs spread throughout the house, including the spare room in 1936 and the garden room in 1945.

Charleston not only houses an impressive collection of art by its inhabitants but also a varied collection of other artist’s work including sculpture by Renoir and Gimond and paintings by Fry, Picasso, Sickert and Derain.

The collection is continually developing - recent acquisitions include Duncan Grant’s ‘Self-Portrait in a Turban’ 1909 purchased with support from The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Art Collections Fund and The Pilgrim Trust and Duncan Grant’s copy of Piero della Francesca’s ‘Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino’ 1904/5 (this purchase was the first project to be supported by the Quentin Bell Commemoration Fund founded in 1997). Amongst recent loans are ‘Flowers against Chintz’ by Duncan Grant, 1956, from the Arts Council Collection and a bronze bust of Lytton Strachey by Stephen Tomlin, circa 1930, on loan from the Keatley Trust. The Tate Gallery have lent two pictures to the collection each season since 1993.

Collection details

Archives, Costume and Textiles, Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Personalities

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
charleston festival icon

Charleston Festival

  • 15 — 25 May 2015 *on now

This year’s Festival of literature, art and ideas is a cultural cornucopia.

We explore themes as old as Magna Carta and as modern as current fiction as life enhancing as gardening and as important as freedom of expression as historic as the Battle of Waterloo and as contemporary as phone hacking as raffish as Bohemianism and as glamorous as front-row fashion as magical as Alice in Wonderland and as magisterial as T.S. Eliot.

Our speakers include titans of the theatre (Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn, Richard Eyre), the law (Helena Kennedy, Jeremy Hutchinson, Alan Moses), and the art world (Maggi Hambling, David Gentleman, Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist).

There will be plenty of opportunity to join in, meet the speakers at the City Books stall and hang out in the Charleston garden, cafés and bar. Don’t miss out!

See individual listings for details on all of this year's events.

Suitable for

Admission

Prices vary depending on event

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/whats-on/festivals/the-charleston-festival/events/

Bohemianism and Creativity

  • 25 May 2015 12-1:30pm *on now

The link between Bohemianism and creativity is so strong that many have thought that if you lead a wild life the art will surely follow. Where better to discuss this than Charleston, an epicentre of Bohemia? 

Vic Gatrell’s The First Bohemians is a rip-roaring story about Covent Garden in the mid 1700s where the nation’s most significant artists, actors and writers congregated.

Fiona MacCarthy is a cultural historian whose work has encompassed Byron, William Morris and Eric Gill. Antony Penrose is the son of the American photographer and war correspondent Lee Miller and the surrealist artist Roland Penrose. Their home at Farley Farm House was host to a wide range of artists, including Henry Moore, Picasso, Max Ernst and Miró.  Frances Spalding has written extensively on Bloomsbury.

Suitable for

Admission

£14

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/whats-on/festivals/the-charleston-festival/events/

The Secret History of Wonderland

  • 25 May 2015 2:30-4pm *on now

Only one writer can claim to have influenced as diverse a band of people as John Lennon, William Empson, the Surrealists, Prince Philip, Tim Burton and sundry mathematicians and philosophers. It is, of course, Lewis Carroll.

This year is the 150th anniversary since the publication of Alice in Wonderland. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s new biography delves beneath the fairy tale to uncover the complex interaction between the quiet academic, Charles Dodgson, his second-self, Lewis Carroll, and his dream child who would never grow up, Alice Liddell.

Vanessa Tait is the great-granddaughter of the original Alice who inspired Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Her novel, The Looking Glass House, draws on memorabilia and stories handed down to her from Alice Liddell. Chaired by Nicolette Jones, critic and children’s literature specialist.

Suitable for

Admission

£14

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/whats-on/festivals/the-charleston-festival/events/

The Young Old Possum

  • 25 May 2015 5-6:30pm *on now

The great American poet T.S. Eliot is closely linked to Charleston. His epoch-defining poem, The Waste Land, was originally published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press.

He remained a close friend of the Woolfs (even though Virginia nailed his sense of English decorum by describing him as the man in the four-piece suit) and visited Charleston with them. 

This year marks 50 years since his death. Robert Crawford’s new biography, Young Eliot: From St Louis to The Waste Land, charts how Eliot started out as a subversive outsider and became the most celebrated poet of the century.

‘The story it tells of the great poet’s early life is enthralling’ (The Observer). Robert Crawford is a prize-winning poet and a Professor of Literature at St Andrews.

Suitable for

Admission

£14

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/whats-on/festivals/the-charleston-festival/events/

Matchbox Theatre

  • 25 May 2015 7-8:30pm *on now

Michael Frayn’s writing career has never been predictable. He began as a satirical journalist and became a novelist and playwright. His plays move effortlessly from comic genius (Noises Off) to intellectual and philosophical (Copenhagen).

His new book, Matchbox Theatre, consists of thirty sketches to be played in the theatre of the imagination. They are imbued with Frayn’s distinctive sense of farce, with human interactions fraught with miscommunication.

There is also plenty of hilarious theatrical parody. Michael Frayn will discuss his playlets with Michael Farthing, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex and actor manqué.

Suitable for

Admission

£16

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/whats-on/festivals/the-charleston-festival/events/

Dramatic Writing Masterclass

  • 6 — 7 June 2015 10am-4pm

A weekend workshop in the art of Dramatic Writing in all it’s forms – for stage, radio or screen.

Held in the atmospheric Charleston barns, explore story, character and form in a series of exercises designed to free your imagination and get you writing.  Turn ideas into hard copy, and leave knowing where to take it from here.

Tutor Faynia Williams is a BBC Drama & Documentary Producer & Richard Crane is former National Theatre Resident Dramatist & Royal Court Literary Manager.

Suitable for

Admission

£200 (£180 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/dramatic-writing-masterclass-6-7-june/

Woodcut Landscapes

  • 9 June 2015 10am-4pm

Spend the morning on the Downs, working to capture the chalk and green sweep of the landscape.  After a picnic lunch, return in the afternoon to the Outer Studio at Charleston and translate your drawings into print.

Tutor Helen Brown will guide you through the fascinating process of cutting, inking and printing, to produce a beautiful woodcut print of your own.

Suitable for

Admission

£100 (£90 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/woodcut-landscapes-9-june/

Handcrafted Ceramic Tiles

  • 15 June 2015 10am-4pm
  • 22 June 2015 10am-4pm
  • 29 June 2015 10am-4pm

Make a series of beautiful, bespoke tiles for your kitchen, bathroom, fireplace or garden, using a variety of ceramic techniques with ceramicist and creator of the Ceramic House, J Kay Aplin.

This three session course covers the intricate processes involved in making plaster casts and press moulds and how to make clay multiples from moulds. Complete your work with colour and surface decoration, using vivid underglazes, oxides and glazes.

Suitable for

Admission

£295 (£265 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/handcrafted-ceramic-tiles-15-22-29-june/

Terracotta Nudes

  • 16 June 2015 10am-4pm

" it is impossible not to feel as the clay takes shape and captures a suggestion of beauty… that this is one of the best things that life has to offer." Quentin Bell, "Techniques of Terracotta."

A day's workshop with a life model making figures in clay with sculptor Silvia MacRae Brown. The clay nudes can be fired once dry and transformed into terracotta. There is an additional cost of £10 on collection of the fired nude.

Suitable for

Admission

£110 (£100 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/terracotta-nudes-16-june/

Fresco Secco

  • 23 June 2015 10am-4pm

Artist and designer Melissa White specialises in reproducing Elizabethan wall paintings and has developed a technique based on the principals of Fresco Secco (painting on dry plaster).

Create a Fresco Secco wall panel (24cm2) with a choice of letter finished in gold or silver leaf and patinated. Learn about natural paints, image transfer, gilding and waxing. Your finished panel will make the perfect personalised gift.

Suitable for

Admission

£110 (£100 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/fresco-secco-23-june/

Oil Painting Masterclass

  • 30 June 2015 10am-4pm

Vanessa Bell descried the garden at Charleston in Summer as a “dithering blaze of flowers and butterflies...” Charleston is first and foremost an Artist’s garden, designed and planted with painting in mind. Both the walled garden and surrounding gardens offer endless possibilities for painters.

This higher level masterclass, with painter Tom Benjamin, will look at approaches to composition and structure, with particular emphasis on colour and light. Painters will have a private tour of the Collection, and exclusive access to the grounds.  Charleston will be closed to the general public.

Suitable for

Admission

£100 (£90 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/oil-painting-masterclass-30-june/

Indian Flower Painting

  • 6 July 2015 10am-4pm

Small is beautiful. Learn how to draw and paint in this most seductive and elusive style, characterised by intricate and delicate brushwork, and strong jewel colours.

Learn and develop the techniques of opaque watercolour painting, colour filling, burnishing, outlining and shading using a single hair brush, and create a beautiful miniature of your own.

Suitable for

Admission

£100 (£90 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/indian-flower-painting-6-july/

Life Drawing En Plein Air

  • 11 July 2015 10am-1pm
  • 15 August 2015 10am-1pm

Continuing the rich legacy of life drawing at Charleston, artist and teacher Silvia MacRae Brown leads a morning of drawing from a life model in the peaceful setting of the Charleston orchard.  Easels and all materials will be provided.

Suitable for

Admission

£40 (£35 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/landscape-painting-18-july/

Pattern Design

  • 14 July 2015 10am-4pm

This workshop explores how to use pattern in striking and dramatic ways.

The day will begin with an overview of the history of pattern design, from geometry in Islamic Art to the Omega Workshops. This will be followed with a private tour, focusing on at the use of pattern in the House.

In the afternoon, discover how to use pattern in your own interiors – on walls, soft furnishings, to personalise stationary or scarves. Design your own motif, and create your own lino-cut printing block to take away.

Suitable for

Admission

£100 (£90 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/pattern-design-14-july/

Landscape Painting

  • 18 July 2015 10am-4pm

Walk from Charleston onto the open chalk Downland, a spectacular landscape that artist Julian Le Bas returns to in his work from season to season. In this inspiring and powerful setting, you will paint directly from the landscape. Tuition and guidance will focus on creating a unified composition, structure, and the handling of oil and acrylic paints. All abilities are welcome.

The group will walk for approimately 30 minutes, the ground will be uneven, and there will be inclines.

The class will try to continue, even if the weather is unfavourable, so please come prepared. If rain becomes heavy, the class will take place in the Barn at Charleston.

Suitable for

Admission

£100 (£90 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/landscape-painting-18-july/

A Gay Outing

  • 26 July 2015 6-8pm

Body building magazines such as Physique Pictorial had a big influence on the output of British male homosexual artists working in the post second world war period.

Duncan Grant used British and American magazines as influence for a large amount of private homo-erotic work. Charleston’s curator, Dr Darren Clarke explores Grant’s responses to this source material and also considers those of a younger generation of artists including David Hockney, Keith Vaughan and Francis Bacon. Strictly over 16s.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

£20 (£15 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/events-performance/a-gay-outing-26-july/

Animation Summer School

  • 27 — 29 July 2015

A great, hands-on introduction to stop-frame animation for young people, covering every stage of the filmmaking process from planning to completion. Participants will script and storyboard an original short animated film and work in small groups to produce animated sequences. They will also be shown how to edit and add sound, create title sequences and export their finished films.

Suitable for

Admission

£175 (£150 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/animation-summer-school/

Young Bohemians: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • 17 — 21 August 2015

Years ago, performances of a Midsummer Night’s Dream were held on the banks of the pond at Charleston on summer evenings. 

All week, the Young Bohemians will create their own production of this enchanting comedy.

Set, props and costume will be made from scratch, parts learnt, friends made, all culminating in a magical end-of –week performances for families and friends.

Suitable for ages 8 - 14.

Suitable for

Admission

£275 (£250 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/young-bohemians-a-midsummer-nights-dream/

An Introduction to Drawing

  • 24 August 2015 10am-4pm

it is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character.' Camille Pissarro

This is a day of pure drawing for beginners. We focus on technique, looking at line, tone, shape and form and colour, to discover that beautiful drawing is not magic but a learnt skill.

Suitable for

Admission

£100 (£90 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/an-introduction-to-drawing-24-august/

Stained Glass

  • 25 August 2015 10am-5pm

Hand craft a beautiful, leaded stained glass window panel.

Learn the traditional techniques of cutting, leading and soldering, cementing and polishing to create a decorative panel that will capture and colour the light as it streams into your home.

All tools and materials are provided.  Please wear old clothes and sturdy shoes!

Suitable for

Admission

£110 (£100 Friends)

Website

http://www.charleston.org.uk/products-page/workshops-masterclasses/stained-glass-25-august/

Charleston
Near Firle
Lewes
East Sussex
BN8 6LL
England

Website

www.charleston.org.uk

E-mail

info@charleston.org.uk

Telephone

Visitor Information

01323 811265

Group/ school bookings

01323 811626

Fax

01323 811628

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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