Roger Fry (1866 – 1934) British painter, writer, art critic and designer

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Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry
Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry

Roger Fry (1866 – 1934) was a British painter, writer, art critic, designer, and lecturer. He was born in London. 


Between 1885 – 1890, he studied natural sciences, Cambridge University where he was a friend of Charles Robert Ashbee. However he turned to painting which he pursued in England and at the AcadĂ©mie Julian, Paris, 1892. 


He wrote articles for the Athenaeum and Burlington Magazine. He published his first book on Giovanni Bellini (1899).

Between 1906-10, he was the curator, of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in conflict with its chair J.P. Morgan. He discovered CĂ©zanne at this time as well as the French avant-garde painters, he introduced their work to British audiences in an exhibition of post-impressionism ( a term that he coined) in 1910.

Elne 1930 by Roger Fry 1866-1934
Elne 1930 Roger Fry 1866-1934 Transferred from the Library 1979

In 1910, met Clive and Vanessa Bell. He became the artistic leader of the Bloomsbury group. He had affairs with Lady Ottoline Morrell and Vanessa Bell.

In c1911, he produced paintings that showed Byzantine. and Post-Impressionist influences.

Omega Workshops

In 1913, he opened the Omega Workshops in an attempt to apply Post-Impressionism to the decorative arts. Between 1913-19, was its co-director, designing textiles, pottery, and furnishings including painted furniture. The workshop was set up to provide income for Fry’s young avant-garde artist friends, including Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. 

Dressing gown in Amenophis VI design 1918, fabric designed 1913
Dressing gown in Amenophis VI design 1918, fabric designed 1913 by Roger Fry, garment by Vanessa Bell

The printed and woven fabrics, carpets, and embroideries designed and sold by Omega Workshops artisans revolutionized Britain’s textile design early in the 20th century. 

In 1919, Fry closed the workshop. In his last ten years, he published eight more books on art. He lectured on art at Queen’s Hall, London. He began to paint commissioned portraits in 1933, Slade professor, Cambridge University, espousing unorthodox views on Greek and ethnographic art. His ashes were interred in an urn decorated by Vanessa Bell. 

Sample of Works

The Artist's Garden at Durbins, Guildford by Roger Fry
The Artist’s Garden at Durbins, Guildford by Roger Fry
Virginia Woolf (1917) painted by Roger Fry
Virginia Woolf (1917) painted by Roger Fry
River with Poplars, ca. 1912 by Roger Fry
River with Poplars, ca. 1912 by Roger Fry

Reading List


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Hiesinger, K. B., & Marcus, G. H. (1995). Landmarks of twentieth-century design: an illustrated handbook. Abbeville Press.

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