English painter and critic, and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Born in London, the son of the judge Edward Fry, he grew up in a wealthy Quaker family in Highgate.
In 1896, he married the artist Helen Coombe and they subsequently had two children, Pamela and Julian. Helen soon became seriously mentally ill, and in 1910 was committed to a mental institution, where she remained for the rest of her life. In 1911, Fry began an affair with Vanessa Bell, who was recovering from a miscarriage.
Fry offered her the tenderness and care she felt was lacking from her husband. They remained lifelong close friends, even though Fry’s heart was broken in 1913 when Vanessa fell in love with Duncan Grant and decided to live permanently with him. After short affairs with artists Nina Hamnett and Josette Coatmellec, Fry too found happiness with Helen Maitland Anrep.
Fry died unexpectedly after a fall at his home in London. His death caused great sorrow among the members of the Bloomsbury Group, who loved him for his generosity and warmth. Vanessa Bell decorated his casket before his ashes were placed in the vault of Kings College Chapel in Cambridge. In the 1900s, Fry started to teach art history at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. In 1903 Fry was involved in the foundation of The Burlington Magazine, the first scholarly periodical dedicated to art history in Britain.
Fry’s later reputation as a critic rested upon essays he wrote on Post-Impressionist painters. In 1906 Fry was appointed Curator of Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This was also the year in which he “discovered” the art of Paul Cézanne, the year the artist died, beginning the shift in his scholarly interests away from the Italian Old Masters and towards modern French art.