Paintings reveal the workshops of 5 famous artists

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For centuries painters have adopted the art studio as matter. Popular among old masters and modern artists, this iconography can offer an intimate glimpse into an individual’s creative practice.

While many artists have given viewers a pictorial glimpse of their workspaces, some setups stand out from others. Here we explore these unique workshops through the eyes of the artists who worked there.

Rembrandt’s simple studio

Artist's studio Paintings from artists' studios

Rembrandt, ‘The Artist in His Studio’ (ca 1626-1628) (Photo via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

During the Dutch Golden Age, artists shifted their focus from religious iconography to secular subjects. The painter, printmaker and designer Rembrandt was at the forefront of this transition, resulting in a collection of narrative art, landscapes and, most famous, around 100 self-portraits.

While most of Rembrandt’s self-portraits emphasize the artist’s expressive face, The artist in his studio also emphasizes the setting: his austere workshop. With virtually no furnishings or decor, the studio is devoid of distraction, making it a perfect place for quiet contemplation and study. In addition, the importance of current painting in The artist in his studio emphasizes the simple nature of Rembrandt’s studio, where the dedicated artist would spend most of his time.

Allegorical by Courbet Workshop

Artist's studio Paintings from artists' studios

Gustave Courbet, ‘The Painter’s Workshop: A true allegory summarizing seven years of my artistic and moral life‘(1855) (Photo via Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons)

While Rembrandt’s painting offers a direct glimpse into the simplicity of his workspace, that of Gustave Courbet highlights the artist’s interest in the studio as a symbol. In The painter’s studio: A true allegory summarizing seven years of my artistic and moral life, Courbet shows “society at its best, its worst and its best”.

On the left side of the canvas are ordinary people, contrasted by a group of elites on the right. In the center is Courbet, depicted working on a large-scale painting as a nude woman, believed to represent the tradition of academic art– and the young boy watches carefully.

While this situation is unlikely to happen again in real life, the painting illustrates the importance of Courbet’s studio, a place where, according to the artist, “the world comes to be painted”.

Monet’s studio boat

Artist's studio Paintings from artists' studios

Édouard Manet, ‘Claude Monet à Argenteuil’ (1874) (Photo via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

With an interest in ephemeral capture impressions of nature, many Impressionist artists abandoned conventional workshops in favor of painting outdoors, or outside. Claude Monet got the best of both worlds with his workshop boat, a floating workshop which he used while living in Argenteuil, France.

In addition to allowing the artist to easily navigate the Seine, the boat-workshop allowed him to closely study the effects of light on water, an interest that eventually led him to Water lilies series. “These landscapes of water and reflections have become an obsession,” he once said. “It’s way beyond my powers at my age, and yet I want to be able to express how I feel.”

Monet often used his workshop boat as a subject, painting it sailing on the Seine or moored in boathouses. The French painter Édouard Manet also highlighted the boat in some of his pieces, notably Claude Monet in Argenteuil.

Artist's studio Paintings from artists' studios

Claude Monet, “The Studio Boat” (1876) (Photo: ErgSap via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

Van Gogh Extra Hospital Room

Artist's studio Paintings from artists' studios

Vincent Van Gogh, “Window in the Studio” (1889) (Photo: Van Gogh Museum Fair Use)

When he was only 37, Post-Impressionist pioneer Vincent van Gogh died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. At the time of his death, he was being treated voluntarily in a mental health facility in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a town in the south of France.

While engaging, the artist continued to paint, and even got a extra room to make it his workshop. Window in the workshop, a painting created just a year before the artist’s death, offers a glimpse of this space.

Like a typical artist’s studio, the sunny room is decorated with finished paintings and still life accessories. What makes this setup so unique, however, is what it overlooks. Just like the view from her bedroom window, which inspired The starry Night-the beautiful view of his makeshift studio is poignantly obstructed by “the iron bars of a cell.”

Matisse’s red room

MOMA colors - Le Studio Rouge

Henri Matisse, ‘L’Atelier Rouge’ (1911)

The red workshop shows the studio that Matisse built for himself just outside Paris in 1909. This piece is renowned for its eye-catching subject matter, flat outlook and radiant red wash.

Brightly colored paintings rendered in the artist’s style hang on the monochrome wall, while figurative sculptures are propped up on plinths. In the foreground, a small still life rests on a stage whose unrealistic angles reflect the asymmetrical dimensions of the scene.

The painting is perhaps most famous for its purple color palette, to which Matisse returned regularly. Why this specific shade? “Where I got the The Red color– to be sure, I just don’t know, ”he explained. “I find all of these things. . . only become what they are for me when I see them together with the color red.

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