Artists’ houses: from Frida Kahlo to JMW Turner

    1 April 2019

    Where does great art come? One rather literal way of answering that question is to go to the places where its creators lived and worked. In Britain, and further afield, there are ample opportunities to visit the homes of renowned artists, and here’s a guide to some of the best of them.

    Henry Moore – Hoglands, Perry Green

    Henry Moore’s home in Perry Green, Credit: Jonty Wilde

    After their London home was damaged in the Blitz, Henry Moore and his wife Irina moved to Hoglands, near the village of Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, in 1940. They initially rented part of the old farmhouse, later buying the entire home, outbuildings and garden after Moore sold a sculpture for £300. The artist turned a number of the buildings on the property into studios, extending them and the grounds over the years. Visitors can take a look inside the studios to see where and how Moore worked, but it’s by viewing the large-scale sculptures dotted around the 70-acre gardens that his work is truly illuminated. Landscape and the human body were both perennial subjects in Moore’s work, and at Hoglands visitors can see how they were brought together, with his reclining figures both dynamic and harmonious additions to the countryside. It is also possible to book a guided tour of Moore’s home on the property and exhibitions run throughout the year. The house is approximately 30 miles from central London and accessible via train and a short taxi ride from Bishop’s Stortford station.

     Another one to visit: Head to Cornwall to see where Barbara Hepworth, another giant of British 20th century sculpture, created her artworks. Her former home and studio in St Ivesis now a museum run by the Tate.

    JMW Turner – Sandycombe Lodge, Twickenham

    Sandycombe Lodge in Twickenham was built as Turner’s rural retreat and a home for his father William in 1812. In his excellent short biography of the artist, Peter Ackroyd describes “a modest villa-like construction” with a studio at the centre filled with light and a garden complete with lily pond and a line of willow trees planted by Turner “upon which he often gazed”. The Grade-II listed building is now owned by the Turner House Trust and underwent a major renovation in 2016. As well as wandering around the rooms where Turner and his father resided, visitors can also view etchings from the artist’s Liber Studiorumseries. The house, a short walk from St Margaret’s station, is small so booking ahead for your visit is essential. Take the opportunity to also stroll along the Thames to Richmond, and experience the surroundings that Ackroyd argues “became a sacred place, part of the landscape of Turner’s imagination”.

    Another one to visit:The renowned architect John Soane was a friend of Turner’s and assisted him in the design of Sandycombe Lodge. Soane’s own country retreat, Pitzhanger Manor in nearby Ealing, is open to the public once again following a multi-million pound overhaul. The house is currently hosting an exhibition of art by Anish Kapoor, which runs until August 18.

    William Morris – The Red House,  Bexleyheath

    William Morris’s The Red House, Bexleyheath

    The Red House is a key building in the life and work of designer, artist and writer William Morris, which he built as a family home in Bexleyheath in 1860. He lived there for five years with his wife Jane and their two children. The building, that was acquired by the National Trust in 2002, is a must visit for those interested in Morris, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts & Crafts movement. The building was created by Morris and the architect Philip Webb in a design inspired by the Medieval period. The home became a hub for Morris and his circle of artist friends. Edward Burne-Jones and Gabriel Dante Rossetti were regular visitors and assisted with decorating the interior. It was while living here that Morris founded design firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company (later Morris & Company), which produced stained glass, wallpaper, furniture and more. According to the National Trust, his quest to find just the right furniture for the Red House inspired his famous quote: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Original features that visitors can see include furniture designed by Morris and Webb, murals believed to be by Burne-Jones and Rossetti among others, and embroidery by Jane Morris and her sister Bessie Burden.

    Another one to visit: Charleston, the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, in Sussex is an essential day out for those who want to discover more about the Bloomsbury Group, and particularly the importance of visual art to the movement.

    And one abroad…

     Rembrandt House Museum – Amsterdam

    Rembrandt’s House, Amsterdam. Credit: Kirsten Vansanten

    It’s 350 years since the death of Rembrandt, and for lovers of his art that means it’s an ideal time to visit Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum’s critically adored exhibition, All the Rembrandts, is on until June, and if you’re going to see it, add a visit to the Dutch master’s former abode to your itinerary. Rembrandt lived in the large home in Jodenbreestraatwith his family from 1639 to 1656, before he was forced to sell it due to his financial troubles. The house has been restored to replicate what it would have been like when Rembrandt lived there, so you can get a sense of the man behind the masterpieces by wandering through the spaces where he taught budding artists, the rooms where he welcomed buyers of his art and the large studio where he worked. A cabinet of the curiosities he collected, including a lion’s skin, busts of Roman emperors and a selection of weapons, gives a further glimpse into the eclectic mind of this genius. A modern gallery space has been added to the building, which hosts exhibitions throughout the year. The house is a particularly good place to view Rembrandt etchings, as it is home to an extensive collection of them. There are also regular etching demonstrations, so you’ll be able to see how he created these intricate artworks.

     Another one to visit: For a trip further afield, visit Frida Kahlo’s home in Coyoacán, Mexico City. The Blue House was the place she grew up in, lived in with her husband, fellow artist Diego Rivera, and died in. It has been a museum dedicated to Kahlo since 1958, and it remains one of city’s most popular tourist attractions.

    Entrance to Frida Kahlo’s The Blue House