Visiting artists’ studios

DSC02102Following World War Two, Alexander Liberman (an artist, but also art director of Vogue) photographed many artists’ studios in France. The book blurb says he “feared that many traces of a heroic epoch might vanish”. He was fascinated by the relationship between the artists’ surroundings and their work… and said: “I have tried to show the creative process itself”. I have a copy of Liberman’s book (revised in 1988) and despite the title of “The artist in his studio” he includes at least two women – Sonia Delaunay and Natalia Gontcharova.

Nearly two years ago I wrote this post on Art and Literature ‘pilgrimages’ and briefly mentioned my visits to Cezanne’s studio at the edge of Aix-en-Provence and Monet’s studio, house and garden at Giverny north of Paris. I have also visited Delacroix’s and Moreau’s studios in Paris and Renoir’s in the south of France. These are all museums now, of course, as the artists are long dead.

The photo at the beginning shows some of the books I have about artists’ studios – the one with the lovely big window is Delacroix’s house and studio in Paris. I was also tempted to buy this ‘Artists in Residence’ book by its soft cover book in a hard slip case – I love a book in a case!

I can’t explain why I like to see these places, except, perhaps like Liberman, I am fascinated by the relationship between surroundings and the creative process.

Lynne Sandri Breaker Bay painting

In Wellington, New Zealand, I have visited a few artists’ studios on organised visits – several years ago with Friends of City Gallery to the home and studio of the now late Melvin (Pat) Day and more recently with Friends of Te Papa to Lynne Sandri and Bruce Luxford’s studios and a couple of days ago to Raewyn Atkinson’s studio. Lynne generally paints bright and bold landscapes or still lifes – and I own one of her works.

Raewyn is a ceramic artist; and although I had seen some of her work in exhibitions, unfortunately I don’t own any. As a sometimes wannabe artist, another thing that interests me in visiting artists’ studios is to see what might inspire them.  Raewyn mentioned being inspired by her travels, by what she’s reading, and also by her interest in the environment and sustainability. I especially liked her translucent porcelain works.

This is from her website:  (where you can also see some of her work)

“Fascinated since primary school by studies of Antarctica and the exploits of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Raewyn first visited Antarctica in 2000 on an Antarctica Art Fellowship and made the trip again in 2003. Those visits – combined with a three month Japanese residency in 1998 that sparked an interest in translucent porcelain – have resulted in several major exhibitions, TERRA NOVA and DESIGNS ON ANTARCTICA. The exhibitions were inspired by the relics left by past human endeavours in Antarctica, along with the present focus related to global warming and tourism.” ( )

Coincidentally, I am currently doing a free online course on Antarctica. This is offered by Victoria University of Wellington through the EdX platform.  While I expected I would enjoy the sessions with Rebecca Priestley on the social history of Antarctica (age of exploration, etc), I have also enjoyed – perhaps more so as I knew little about it – the geology sessions with Cliff Atkins. I have a long fascination with Antarctica but don’t really have any desire to go there as I don’t like feeling that cold! But also I don’t want to go there as a tourist – I would rather tourists stayed away from fragile environments. (Raewyn’s first trip was on an art fellowship, but her second trip was as a tourist, and she was struck by the different experiences.)


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