A few weeks ago CLG met for a lively talk by art historian and Newnham College alumna Frances Spalding on the subject of the artist Gwen Raverat.
As a member of the very tight-knit Darwin clan, the presence of her grandfather Charles Darwin was there throughout Gwen's life, despite Charles having died three years before she was born. The Darwin family were often viewed by others with some scepticism, which perhaps led to the tighter-than-normal family bond.
Gwen taught herself the art of wood-engraving while at the Slade School in London, where she also met her husband Jacques Raverat, who had been a mathematician until doctors advised him to give up mathematics for his health, and take up art instead! Sadly, Jacques' health continued to deteriorate, and he was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The Raverats decided to move to France in the hopes that the warmer climate would help. While in France, they continued to keep in touch with friends at home, in particular with Virginia Woolf, who wrote to Jacques often and kept him up-to-date with news and gossip.
After Jacques died in 1925, Gwen decided to return to Cambridgeshire, and in her final years was often seen sitting by the Backs in her wheelchair, painting.
I knew very little about Gwen Raverat before hearing Frances' talk, and I found the evening thoroughly enjoyable. As always it was great to catch up with other librarians, and Period Piece is now next on my 'to-read' list!
By Annie Gleeson, Senior Library Assistant at Homerton College