Roger Eliot Fry was born in 1866 in Highgate, London, into a wealthy Quaker family. While studying for a Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge, Fry's interest in art was encouraged by the Slade Professor J.H. Middleton and, much to his family's regret, he decided after university to pursue an artistic career rather than continue his scientific studies.
Although Fy's chosen career as an artist and critic was a success, his personal life was troubled. His wife, the artist Helen Coombe, whom he married in 1896, suffered from mental illness and had to be committed to an institution in 1910, leaving Fry to look after their children Pamela and Julian.
His affair with Vanessa Bell, which began in 1911 when Fry accompanied the Bells on a holiday to Turkey, ended when she transferred her affections to Duncan Grant in 1913. Fry was heartbroken. In a letter written four years later, his feelings for Vanessa are still very evident:
Don't forget my dear that I am getting a rather bad hunger to spend a few quick days with you...it would be an enormous pleasure so I trust you to plan it as far ahead as possible. I'll always arrange for you at Guildford in the mid week if you can come.
Letter from Roger Fry to Vanessa Bell, June 11 1917It was not until 1924 after several short lived relationships (including affairs with Nina Hamnett, one of the Omega artists; and Josette Coatmellec, which ended tragically with her suicide), that he found happiness with Helen Anrep. ...