Duncan Grant 1885-1978


Roy Miles, acquired directly from Charleston, mid-1980s
With Abbott & Holder, London
Private Collection, UK
This is a characteristic painting of the male nude from Duncan Grant’s middle period at Charleston, East Sussex. Grant moved to Charleston with his close friend and lifelong partner Vanessa Bell in 1916 and they lived there together for the rest of their lives. Writing in the recent exhibition catalogue for Sussex Modernism, the Bloomsbury scholar Hope Wolf described how ‘[t]he relative privacy of Charleston allowed Grant to flout both social conventions and the law.’ Works such as this suggest the relaxed environment of the Sussex farmhouse, where nudity was casual and homosexual relationships – though illegal – were freely pursued.

The model for this nude was probably Charles ‘Toni’ Asserati. Asserati was a regular sitter for Grant in the nineteen-thirties. Frances Spalding, Grant’s biographer, has noted that he ‘became the subject of some of [Grant’s] most sensual paintings’. A closely similar work, openly exploring the sitter’s male body against a strongly coloured background, is in the collection of Charleston Farmhouse – Grant evidently enjoyed these works and kept one for himself. Standing Male Nude - Study of Tony Asserati (c. 1935, Charleston Farmhouse) depicts Asserati holding a gestural white cloth.

The attribution of this work has been confirmed by Richard Shone.