As well as classes in English architecture, Latin and Italian, Vanessa studied life-drawing, still-life drawing and painting. This laid the foundations for her achievements as an artist and designer in the Bloomsbury Group, the Omega Workshop and at Charleston House, East Sussex — as celebrated in the first major retrospective exhibition of her work, at Dulwich Picture Gallery, 8 February-4 June 2017 .
The Head of the Ladies’ Department from 1894 to 1907, Lilian Faithfull, was the first woman to become a Justice of the Peace in England. She described Vanessa and her fellow Art-school students as ‘a set of wild but very attractive students, many of them daughters of artists in and around Kensington’. Faithfull also wrote in the Ladies’ Department magazine of how, for women with their own room to study in, ‘The possession of a castle of one’s own is, perhaps, the first keen joy of College life’ – a phrase which perhaps inspired Virginia Woolf’s concept of A Room of One’s Own.