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Claudia Tobin: Garsington, Rodmell and Sissinghurst

Dr Claudia Tobin will discuss each of these gardens and their female owners and uncover the connections in their social, artistic, and horticultural circles during the tumultuous first decades of the twentieth century.

Lady Ottoline Morrell’s Garsington Manor in Oxfordshire became a refuge for conscientious objectors and pacifists during the First World War. It inspired many of the artists and writers who gathered there, from Dora Carrington and Mark Gertler to Katherine Mansfield and Siegfried Sassoon.

Virginia Woolf, who was ambivalent about Garsington, found solace in her cottage garden at Rodmell, Sussex and wrote several of her best known novels in a hut next to the apple orchard. In the early 1930s, she became a regular visitor to the colour themed garden ‘rooms’ cultivated at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent by Vita Sackville-West. Sissinghurst’s gardens became ‘an escape from the world’, in the words of Vita’s husband and fellow gardener Harold Nicholson.

The gardens of all three women were refuges for conversation and companionship but also solitude and privacy. They were places where relationships, creativity and domesticity could be redefined. Through photographs and paintings, fiction and correspondence, this talk will tell the interweaving stories of these pioneering women and their garden sanctuaries.

  • Dr Claudia Tobin

    Bio »

    Dr Claudia Tobin

    Dr Claudia Tobin is a writer, curator and academic specialising in the intersections between modern and contemporary literature and the visual arts. She is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Intellectual Forum, Jesus College Cambridge, and a Visiting Fellow at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies.

    Claudia is the author of Still Life and Modernism: Artists, Writers, Dancers (Edinburgh University Press, published March 2020), and co-editor of Ways of Drawing: Artists’ Perspectives and Practices (Thames & Hudson, 2019). She is currently writing a book about colour and the imagination in art and literature, and a book about early twentieth century women and their gardens sanctuaries, which she is also co-curating an exhibition on to be shown at the Garden Museum.

    Claudia has worked on numerous curatorial projects including Virginia Woolf: Art, Life, and Vision at the National Portrait Gallery (2014), contributing to Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by her Writings (2018, Tate St Ives Pallant House Gallery, Fitzwilliam Museum) as well as many exhibitions on contemporary artists. Most recently, she co-curated Jerusalem in Exile: Artist’s Books by Kamal Boullata at Jesus College West Court Gallery, Cambridge (January-March 2020, then travelling to Beirut).