Seven unmissable artists’ studios and houses

Published 21 March 2016

Put yourself in the mind of the artist at these artists' houses, where figures including Lord Leighton, William Morris and Virginia Woolf lived, worked and entertained friends.

From the richly decorated interiors of Leighton House Museum and Charleston, to a Modernist masterpiece in Hampstead, get up close and personal with the artists at these unique studios and houses.

Designed to be lived in as well as places where the imagination could run free, these spaces all tell us something about their inhabitants' personal lives – the way they liked to live, as well as the way they liked to work.

All are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass.


1

Charleston

This 16th-century stone farmhouse was the Bloomsbury Group’s country retreat, and still bursts with their creative spirit today. In an upstairs bedroom, John Maynard Keynes wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace. Along the corridors, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell discussed philosophy. Charleston’s walls, furniture and canvases are decorated with paintings by Bell and Duncan Grant, which were recently restored to their full glory with the help of hundreds of donors through our crowdfunding platform, Art Happens.


2

Leighton House Museum

The former home of the painter Frederic, Lord Leighton, this sumptuous house is a fantastic statement of his vision. Leighton brought back curious finds from his travels along with plenty of inspiration, and visitors can marvel at the dazzling Arab Hall, with its indoor fountain and golden dome, and see the Silk Room where Leighton kept his most recent and favourite art purchases. Although Leighton was one of the most famous Victorian artists, few people believed they knew the man behind the polished social persona. His house provides an insight into an incredibly talented yet enigmatic figure.


3

Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden

One of the most important sculptors of the 20th century, Barbara Hepworth lived and worked in the studio on this site, and the studio and garden are very much like they were during her time. On display are the tools she loved to use: her chisels and hammers, as well as her white work apron and a varied selection of works.


4

Watts Gallery – Artists' Village

By the time George Frederic Watts and his second wife, Mary, commissioned a house in the Surrey countryside, GF Watts was already a household name. The couple’s country home and studios provided a refuge from Watts’ popularity and London’s smog (which led to his bad health). It was a place of great productivity, and visitors can find nuggets of insight into the artists’ creative processes, an entire gallery dedicated to the work of Mary Watts, and the original red-brick Watts Chapel.


5

Red House

The Red House is the only house to be commissioned, created and lived in by William Morris. When he and his family lived here, the house became a hub for their circle of friends, who visited for weeks at a time. Tapestries, wall paintings, stained glass and furniture created by Morris and his Pre-Raphaelite friends adorn the house and led Dante Gabriel Rossetti to describe it as ‘more of a poem than a house’.


6

2 Willow Road

One of only two Modernist houses open for exploration in the UK, this masterpiece was designed by the architect Ernö Goldfinger in 1939 and occupied by his family for more than 40 years. Home to the family collection of 20th-century art by artists including Henry Moore, Max Ernst and Bridget Riley, 2 Willow Road also houses original furniture and fittings designed by Goldfinger.


7

Gainsborough's House

One of Britain’s most prominent painters, Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury and spent his early childhood at this 16th-century house in the Suffolk town, moving to London at the age of 13 to study art. The house celebrates Gainsborough’s career and preserves some of the elements that would have been found during his time there. Its vast and beautiful garden is home to plants that would have been available during Gainsborough’s lifetime, and which give the house real 18th-century charm.


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