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Last Updated: Monday, 5 April, 2004, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Virginia Woolf portrait uncovered
Virginia Woolf
The portrait was painted at 52 Tavistock Square
A long-lost portrait of Virginia Woolf, who hated sitting for paintings, has gone on display after its whereabouts was revealed by its owner.

The portrait was last seen in 1934, was painted by the writer's sister, the celebrated artist Vanessa Bell.

Woolf, who died in 1941, had previously turned down a request by the National Portrait Gallery to sit for a picture.

The picture has been loaned to the Charleston museum near Lewes, in East Sussex.

Woolf, author of To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway, revealed in private letters to her nephew Quentin Bell why she did not want to sit for the National Portrait Gallery.

Imagining its future fate she wrote "they keep the drawing in a cellar and when I've been dead 10 years they have it out and say 'Does anyone want to know what Mrs Woolf looked like?' No, say all the others, and then it's torn up."

Bell's portrait was exhibited at the Lefervre Gallery in London in 1934 before being sold to a private collector and was not seen for 70 years.

A recent telephone call the Charleston Trust revealed where it was and negotiations began for putting it on display.

Trust director Alistair Upton said: "This portrait is a thrilling discovery and we are very pleased to be able to show it at Charleston. I am sure that it will be the absolute highlight of the season for our visitors."

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