The Artist Helen Coombe (1864-1937): The Tragedy of Roger Fry’s Wife (2023)
Artist(s): Helen Coombe
Author(s): Martin Ferguson Smith
Edition: First Edition
Year published: 2023
Publisher: Paul Holberton Publishing
Total Pages: 328
Helen Coombe was a woman admired not only for her artistic skill, but also for her intellect, personality, and wit. The first biography of Coombe, The Artist Helen Coombe reveals her family background and education, her place in the arts and crafts movement, and her outstanding artistic output. Coombe was married to Roger Fry, an artist who was to achieve most fame as an art critic, historian, and protagonist of the Bloomsbury Group. Soon after their marriage in 1896, she displayed symptoms of schizophrenia. After the first episode, she temporarily resumed her career and had two children with Fry, but for the last thirty years of her life, she was committed to an institution.
This thoroughly researched investigation makes full use of archival material, including correspondence, diaries, and medical records, and illuminates late Victorian and Edwardian society and culture. It sheds new light on Fry and is a must for anyone interested in the Bloomsbury Group, art history, and the handling of mental illness in the late nineteenth century.