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Are you sitting comfortably?

 Are you sitting comfortably?

Then let's begin. We all like a good, inspirational read. Whether it's Shakespeare or George R. R. Martin, artists have long been inspired by literature and vice versa.

From Sir John Everett Millais' 'Ophelia' to Picasso's 'Don Quixote', many a famous artist has paid homage to his or her literary heroes — mad old Dalí even had a go at it with his Alice in Wonderland-inspired, Mad Tea Party. And art's relationship with literature doesn't end there, there are also countless writers who turned their hand to painting over the centuries, with varying degrees of success.

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The Bloomsbury Group

The Bloomsbury Group were a fairly arty set in general, and the National Portrait Gallery holds no less than 63 paintings of Virginia Woolf, including the particularly famous one of her knitting, painted by her sister, Vanessa Bell. (Does knitting seem a little off to anyone as a feminist's choice of hobby? We suppose she must have been doing it ironically). Post-impressionist artist, Roger Fry, was also part of the Bloomsbury Group and under his guidance the group developed their 'Bloomsbury assumptions', which basically rejected the traditional distinction between fine and decorative art. Good for them.

Jack Kerouac

A little known fact this, but Beat generation writer Jack Kerouac, famous for his career-defining book, On the Road was also a painter. He left behind a legacy of 'beat paintings,' similar in style to his writing, for which he coined the term 'spontaneous prose.' Not everyone was a fan though (of the writing or the art), with Truman Capote’s coming up with this excellent put-down: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

But no matter what your opinion on writers painting or painters writing (not so many of those!), many a fruitful collaboration has occurred between the disciplines of art and writing and long may it remain so.

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Cover image via Evgen Semenyuk

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