Artwork inspired by Virginia Woolf’s inspirational walk in Tavistock Square

PUBLISHED: 11:44 22 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:44 22 May 2020

Images from artist Louisa Albani's pamphlet on Virginia Woolf's life in Bloomsbury and Tavistock Square

Images from artist Louisa Albani's pamphlet on Virginia Woolf's life in Bloomsbury and Tavistock Square


East Finchley artist Louisa Albani has turned the moment the novelist concieved To The Lighthouse into an illustrated pamphlet with excerpts from her writings

Images from artist Louisa Albani's pamphlet on Virginia Woolf's life in Bloomsbury and Tavistock SquareImages from artist Louisa Albani's pamphlet on Virginia Woolf's life in Bloomsbury and Tavistock Square

East Finchley artist Louisa Albani has long been fascinated by great writers and the places that inspired them.

From Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green, to her daughter Mary Shelley at her St Pancras graveside, to ‘William Blake’s Mystic Map of London’, she has followed in their footsteps to imagine their creative process - then translated it into mixed media artworks in illustrated pamphlets alongside excerpts of their writing.

Her latest is inspired by Virginia Woolf’s indelible association with Bloomsbury and an intertwined group of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists who lived there in the early 20th Century including John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey.

Woolf lived variously in Gordon Square, Fitzroy Square and Brunswick Square but settled with husband Leonard at 52 Tavistock Square between March 1925 and 1939.

It was handling a first edition of Woolf’s The Voyage Out - dedicated to her sister Vanessa Bell - during a women’s writing exhibition, that sent Albani on a quest to read her work.

“I had never read much of it before but reading her letters and diary I found out that she made up To The Lighthouse while walking around Tavistock Square one summer afternoon in 1925. What fascinates me is the creative process, how artists seem to conjure something out of nothing.

“I love the spirit and significance of place, so I took my camera and spent the whole afternoon there trying to visually reimagine a moment - a surreal snapshot of what she might experience as she walks around the square.

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“The thoughts come flooding about this transition between being in this modern society and memories of being hundreds of miles away in Cornwall.

“When you read her diary you can hear the sea throughout it as she expresses long-felt deep emotion.”

The pamphlet includes Albani’s illustrations alongside extracts from Woolf’s letters, diaries and the novel. She first approaches her subjects intellectually to “give it a framework” before working intuitively to realise her ideas in ink using handmade print techniques.

Publishing the pamphlets herself is a way of “combining my artistic skills, passion for literature and a certain sensibility”.

“Having my own press means the power to see the vision through from beginning to end.”

The Woolf’s apartment suffered bomb damage during The Blitz and is now occupied by the Tavistock Hotel. There is a statue of Virginia in the Square alongside a plaque to the victims of the 7/7 bombs, and a statue of Ghandi who studied law at nearby UCL.

On one of Albani’s illustrations, she traces an image of their bombed home.

“Her house is no longer there, they couldn’t go back after that and it was the end of life in Tavistock Square.”

Louisa Albani’s A Moment in the Life of Virginia Woolf: A Lighthouse Shone in Tavistock Square is published June 1 by Nightbird Press

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