Each week, we bring you the backstory of work featured in our collection, written by a member of our curatorial team.

Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center

by Poppy Simpson, Head of Content and Curation

Picture an artist’s studio. What do you see? A shabby, bohemian Parisian garret? Or, perhaps, a contemporary paint-splattered box in some dilapidated industrial building? Both should be dismal and yet both brim with urgent, creative possibility.

There is another type of studio too, of course, and maybe that’s where your mind went—to a place of order and discipline, where the master artist stands, easel in hand, before a model posing on the dias.

This is the type of studio found amongst the artworks of a recent collection, which includes a number grand nineteenth century studio scenes painted by artists of their contemporaries.

Interior of the Studio of Abel de Pujol, Adrienne-Marie Grandpierre-Deverzy

But if these two visions seem opposites apart, it’s worth remembering that they are also similar in one significant way. The studio has long been seen, by artists and audiences alike, as a reflection—even extension—of the art itself.

And so, the cramped conditions of the turn of the century studio and the chaos of the modern artists’ space speak to our romantic view of the struggling, misunderstood painter, suffering for his art; these are the spaces to house a pioneering turn of the century painter or emerging abstract impressionist! In the same way, the stately atmosphere of the classical painter’s workplace reflects the contemporary view of the artist as academic and philosopher—equally at home interpreting history and mythology as painting royalty and aristocracy.

Across eras, the studio has fulfilled the same function: a brick and mortar manifestation of the artist and his or her work; a place fit for the ‘studio visit’ by collectors, museum curators, and critics.

And so there was one painting that I was particularly drawn to in this collection—a painting that confronted the usual careful representation of the artist at work (in person, on canvas or in a photograph). In ‘The Studio of Ingres in Rome’ the painter (Jean Alaux) appears to have stumbled across the artist at work. We are not presented with a carefully constructed mise en scène, rather (like the woman peering around the door) we only glimpse the painter—his canvas is out of view. What in the world, we wonder, is he painting?

The Studio of Ingres in Rome, Jean Alaux