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Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries$
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Julie Vandivere and Megan Hicks

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954088

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781942954088.001.0001

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“Definite, Burly, and Industrious”: Virginia Woolf and Gwen Darwin Raverat

“Definite, Burly, and Industrious”: Virginia Woolf and Gwen Darwin Raverat

(p.22) “Definite, Burly, and Industrious”: Virginia Woolf and Gwen Darwin Raverat
Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries

Kristin Bluemel

Liverpool University Press

In February 1909 Virginia Woolf visited the Darwin family home in which wood engraver Gwen Darwin Raverat grew up amid a large, boisterous family that struck Woolf as having a temperament “too definite, burly, and industrious”. Woolf predicts that young Gwen will “end in 10 years time by being a strong and sensible woman, plainly clothed”; she never predicts or acknowledges Raverat’s artistic success. Focusing on Woolf’s robust correspondence in 1922-1923 with Raverat’s painter husband, Jacques Raverat, this chapter argues that Woolf’s readers will better understand what is at stake in Woolf’s literary visions of indefinite, ethereal, and leisured femininity if they also understand how Gwen Raverat’s competing aesthetic of definite, burly, and industrious femininity informs her wood engravings. This paper’s concern with Woolf’s aesthetic and her ascription to Raverat of an inferior, less feminine aesthetic is ultimately an inquiry into what can and cannot constitute women’s modern art.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Gwen Darwin Raverat, wood engraving, modern art, feminine aesthetic, women’s art

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