Barbara Hepworth at work on the plaster for Oval Form (Trezion) (Photo: Val Wilmer) (1963) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield
As we know, the location of an artist’s studio is the key to finding a perfect harmony between inspiration and a space to explore that fully. But when you’ve found the location, what makes the perfect working space? Here we explore the studios of a range of famous artists, to get a behind the scenes peek into the way they organized their creative spaces and catch a glimpse of half-finished works.
By Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection
Gjon Mili was a LIFE magazine photographer and became well-known for his portraits of famous artists (in fact he snapped a few of the studios in this list). In these images, Mili avoids being the subject and instead snaps away at other artists at work in his studio. Here we see artist Saul Steinberg while he works on murals for the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati with sculptor Constantino Nivola seated nearby. Mili's spacious studio was in New York and the photographer often invited his subjects there to be photographed as the lofty space provided a blank canvas for his shoots. The photographer’s black cat, Blackie, often made an appearance on set and can be seen in the background of some of Mili's images.
Henry Moore (1949) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection
British sculptor Henry Moore set up his studio in Perry Green, Hertfordshire in 1940. Originally from Yorkshire, Moore and his wife previously lived in London and after their flat was damaged by bombing during World War II, the couple moved to a farmhouse in the quaint hamlet. The place became Moore’s home and studio for the rest of his life and here we can see him in a shed-like structure surrounded by his life-size sculptures, with other sculpted objects laying neatly in the background.
By Gordon ParksLIFE Photo Collection
Helen Frankenthaler was a major contributor to the history of postwar American painting although her work often gets overlooked in favor of male artists like Mark Rothko and Robert Rauschenberg who were working at the same time. Here we see the abstract expressionist painter in her first studio space in New York on East 21st Street, where she created work from 1950–1959. Surrounded by her works, there’s something incredibly satisfying about the way Frankenthaler’s salmon-colored shirt complements the pastel hues of her room-size painting.
Off Beat Artists (1960-06-16) by Yale JoelLIFE Photo Collection
Jim Dine is an American artist and poet and he’s known for his contributions to the formation of both Performance Art and Pop Art. His career took off during the 1960s, but before that Dine and his then-wife Nancy lived in a small apartment (that doubled up at the artist’s studio) in Yorkville, Manhattan. They moved there in 1959, the same year their first son, Jeremiah, was born. Dine was teaching in the city while painting on the side. This image, taken in 1960, sees the artist in his cluttered studio with various artworks hanging up and his son on his shoulders. A couple of years later, gallerist Martha Jackson and several other New York art aficionados bought and exhibited his paintings, allowing Dine to quit teaching and go full-time with his art.
By Hart PrestonLIFE Photo Collection
Candido Portinari remains one of Brazil’s most important artists and is credited as being a prominent practitioner of the neo-realism style of painting, which saw him use color and shape to express daily life and emotions. In 1940, Portinari was commissioned by the Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish to create murals for the newly-opened Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The artist travelled from Brazil to live in the American capital while he painted the murals and here he’s captured in 1942 in his Washington studio working on the outline of a painting and posing for the camera.
Jackson Pollock (1949-04) by Martha HolmesLIFE Photo Collection
Jackson Pollock and his wife (and fellow artist) Lee Krasner lived in a house in East Hampton, Long Island and Pollock used the small barn next to the property as his own studio. The artist decorated the floors and walls of the space using his brother’s large collection of square Masonite baseball game boards that he had given them.
These pictures, shot by Martha Holmes, are the most famous images of the artist, taken as he works on one of his well known splatter works. This insight into Pollock’s life was rare and allowed people to see how the artist worked. This first image was even turned into a 33-cent postage stamp in 1999 by the US Postal Service, though the cigarette hanging from his mouth was removed.
Alexander Calder (1959) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection
After living in Paris for several years, artist Alexander Calder upped sticks and relocated to Saché, a small French village near Tours. The artist renovated the property in 1954 and construction of the large studio he designed on a hilltop nearby the property was completed in 1963. Calder’s studio allowed him to live among nature and the organic shapes he saw inspired his sculptures and mobiles. In these images we see the barn-like scale of the studio, allowing the artist to create his well-known large-scale installations, with other shots of him scowling into a mirror as he fashions a self-portrait out of wire. Today Calder’s studio now plays host to an artist-in-residence program set up by Atelier Calder, the foundation formed in his memory.
Barbara Hepworth at the Palais de Danse, 1961 (1961) by Rosemary MathewsThe Hepworth Wakefield
Barbara Hepworth lived and work in Trewyn Studio in St Ives from 1949 until her death in 1975. Hepworth first came to the Cornish town with her husband Ben Nicholson and their young family after the outbreak of war in 1939. It was in this studio that she first explored the potential of bronze as a material, as well as developing her work in stone and wood. She once wrote of the space: “Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic. Here was a studio, a yard and a garden where I could work in open air and space”. In these images we see Hepworth finishing off a large stone sculpture, experimenting with materials and showing people round a part of her studio which is full of her sculptures.
Sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1964) by Paul SchutzerLIFE Photo Collection