Art
9 Famous Artists’ Studios You Can Visit, from Jackson Pollock to Barbara Hepworth
By Rachel Lebowitz
Oct 23, 2017 6:01 pm

From Francis Bacon’s famously disheveled creative hive to Constantin Brancusi’s workspace, which featured his own handmade furniture, the studios of history’s most famous artists provide a trove of insight into their practices and personas. Whether they ultimately become museums or are managed by foundations (like The Easton Foundation, which is in the process of readying Louise Bourgeois’s New York studio for public view), restoration efforts allow these spaces to be preserved and appreciated long after an artist’s death. What follows are nine artists’ studios—in locations from Cape Town to Cornwall—that you can visit in person.


Joan Miró

Mallorca, Spain

Joan Miró’s studio. Photo by Alexandra Moss, via Flickr.

Joan Miró’s studio. Photo by Alexandra Moss, via Flickr.

Spanish painter, sculptor, and printmaker Miró—known for his biomorphic sculptures and abstract compositions inspired both by the Dada scene he had been involved with in Paris and by Japanese calligraphy—had grown up spending time in Mallorca with his grandmother. When he relocated there permanently from Barcelona in his sixties, he destroyed many of his previous works entirely, making way for a new phase of creativity that having his own studio (for the first time) afforded.

The Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró, which he established to preserve his studios, in part as inspiration to future artists, includes not only Miró’s first studio and a museum of his works, but also Son Boter, an 18th-century Mallorcan country estate house behind his own home that he bought as a space to make large-scale works. Today, its garage houses a functioning printmaking workshop, updated from Miró’s time.


Barbara Hepworth

Cornwall, England

Barbara Hepworth’s studio. Photo by Zoer, via Flickr.

Barbara Hepworth’s studio. Photo by Zoer, via Flickr.

At the onset of World War II, British sculptor Hepworth settled in the town of St. Ives in Cornwall, with her second husband, artist Ben Nicholson. She found Trewyn Studio a decade later, and lived and worked there for some 25 years. Hepworth forged her sculptures—signature stone and wood pieces, and plaster casts for her bronzes—in the house’s yard, in two outdoor studios, and in the house itself.

Per her instruction, the property—including the garden that she curated to display her sculptures—was turned into a museum after she died, and has been operated under the auspices of London’s Tate since 1980. The carving studio remains virtually how she left it, while the plaster studio now includes tools and in-progress works intended to give the space an educational and narrative focus. The museum is open through October 29th, before it closes for conservation until spring 2018.


Constantin Brancusi

Paris, France

Reconstruction of Constantin Brancusi’s studio at the Centre Pompidou. Photo by Piero Sierra, via Flickr.

Reconstruction of Constantin Brancusi’s studio at the Centre Pompidou. Photo by Piero Sierra, via Flickr.

Romanian-born sculptor Brancusi was based in Paris for over 50 years. Originally located along an alley called the Impasse Ronsin, his home and studio drew prominent artists including Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Max Ernst, and Niki de Saint Phalle, in the 1950s and ’60s. During Brancusi’s tenure, he not only created his sculptural works there, but also developed a sort of personal museum in which to display them. He envisioned his pieces in groupings and rearranged them to achieve a sense of perfect harmony, eventually ceasing to make new works and filling the empty space with a plaster cast if he sold a piece.

When he died, Brancusi left everything in his studio to the French government—and specified that the space must be perfectly recreated. The reconstructed, relocated studio now exists inside a Renzo Piano-designed, museum-like space beside the Centre Pompidou—and houses some 137 of Brancusi’s sculptures.


Georgia O’Keeffe

Abiquiú, New Mexico

Herbert Lotz, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu House, Sitting Room, 2007. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

Herbert Lotz, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu House, Sitting Room, 2007. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

In 1949, long after she had begun creating her iconic, abstracted paintings of flowers, O’Keeffe left New York and moved cross-country to continue her close observations of the natural world in the desert plains of New Mexico. There, her home and studio, in Abiquiú—which she purchased in 1945—is now a National Historic Landmark, operating in tandem with the Santa Fe campus of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, about 60 miles away. While she lived and worked in the building over the course of some 30 years, O’Keeffe created dozens of paintings based on the house and its surroundings, including its view of the Chama River. Visitors can reserve tours until just prior to Thanksgiving, before the building closes for the season, through March.


Francis Bacon

Dublin, Ireland

Six years after Bacon’s death in 1992, a team of archeologists, curators, and conservators moved his entire London studio to The Hugh Lane, a municipally run art gallery in Dublin, Bacon’s birthplace. The space has been recreated to reflect the exact condition Bacon left it in—namely, a mess. It was the artist’s home and workplace for three decades, and the Dublin reconstruction includes everything from the physical structure itself to the accumulated dust that gathered in the space.

Bacon’s notorious drinking and debauchery are evident in the chaos of paints and brushes; clothing that he used to transfer textures to his canvases; photographs of him and his acquaintances; destroyed, in-progress paintings; works on paper; the door and walls where he mixed paints in lieu of using a palette; loose book pages that served as source material; and a replica plaster cast of William Blake’s head. Both the relocation effort and the accompanying cataloguing of thousands of objects left in the studio were groundbreaking in museum archival practice.


Irma Stern

Cape Town, South Africa

Irma Stern Museum. Photo via Flickr.

Irma Stern Museum. Photo via Flickr.

Born in South Africa to German parents and educated in the arts in Germany (Max Pechstein was her mentor), Stern drew artistic inspiration from her travels around Africa and Europe. She painted expressionistic, psychological portraits, as well as still lifes and landscapes, and also made sculptures. Her avant-garde work was at first met with criticism in South Africa (the police were alerted to her first solo show there on the basis of immorality), despite a positive early reception in Europe.

Eventually, however, she came to be lauded as one of South Africa’s preeminent artists. The 1830s house where she lived and worked for some four decades is open to the public as the Irma Stern Museum. Stern’s studio, as well as her dining room and sitting room, are furnished as she left them, with eclectic artifacts from her travels, as well as a selection of her work, which the museum has hung from the walls. The second story, added to the space later on, operates as a gallery dedicated to contemporary South African art.


Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner

East Hampton, New York

Pollock-Krasner studio. Photo by John Griffin. Courtesy of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center.

Pollock-Krasner studio. Photo by John Griffin. Courtesy of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center.

Pollock and Krasner met in 1941, in advance of a group exhibition that included both of the young Abstract Expressionists. They would marry in 1945, and, just two weeks later, move into their home in East Hampton. Pollock renovated and used a barn on the property as his studio, where Krasner worked after Pollock’s death in 1956. The floorboards are splashed and speckled with the vestiges of Pollock’s action painting—which conservators found and preserved during renovation.

The walls, meanwhile, display photographs and texts related to both artists’ careers and show physical traces of Krasner’s paintings. Krasner’s will stipulated that the home (where she originally painted) and the studio both be a place of insight into her and Pollock’s practices and a broader educational resource for students of modern art in America, and the site now features a study center that includes archives and interviews. This National Historic Landmark is open seasonally, from May through October.


René Magritte

Brussels, Belgium

Photo by Mattia Camellini, via Flickr. © All rights reserved by Mattia Camellini.

Photo by Mattia Camellini, via Flickr. © All rights reserved by Mattia Camellini.

In his home at 135 Rue Esseghem in Brussels, Surrealist artist Magritte routinely organized salons for his compatriots—so frequently, in fact, that the space became a homebase for the Belgian Surrealists. There, he also painted close to half of his strange and thought-provoking works, often using his own household items as inspiration.

Magritte and his family moved in 1954, and the house passed through the hands of several tenants before it was purchased and restored as a museum in the 1990s. Using historical documents, including auction records, photos, and interviews, the René Magritte House Museum recreated the studio as it had looked in the artist’s day. In the upstairs part of the house, the museum displays Magritte’s paintings and archival materials and mounts rotating exhibitions of likeminded artists. It is also in the process of expanding to the building next door in order to display more of its collection of some 650 works of modern art.


David Ireland

San Francisco, California

The David Ireland House. Photo by Henrik Kam. Courtesy of The 500 Cap Street Foundation.

The David Ireland House. Photo by Henrik Kam. Courtesy of The 500 Cap Street Foundation.

The David Ireland House. Photo by Henrik Kam. Courtesy of The 500 Cap Street Foundation.

The David Ireland House. Photo by Henrik Kam. Courtesy of The 500 Cap Street Foundation.

When Ireland purchased an 1886 rowhouse in San Francisco’s Mission District, the Bay Area Conceptual artist envisioned a combined live-work space. During the some three decades he was based there, he transformed the house into what is often considered an artwork in its own right. As a kind of performative act—a “maintenance action,” as he called it—he not only cleaned the house but also removed window trim and baseboards, sanded the floors, and preserved cracks and discolorations in the walls with polyurethane, to expose the house’s skeleton and excavate its history.

Meanwhile, he created sculptures and installations from objects and materials he found while cleaning, like rubber bands, brooms, and dirt. Reopened to the public last year after conservation and renovation (the managing 500 Capp Street Foundation preserved the existing space and added square footage to display and archive work), the house and garage feature rotating exhibitions of Ireland’s works, as well as a visiting artist series.


Rachel Lebowitz