Where Great Artists Worked: America's Historic Homes and Studios
Author Valerie Balint's Guide to Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios explores three centuries of the United States' artistic heritage, visiting the places where artists were inspired to create some of the country’s greatest art. The book travels across America, from Maine to Montana and beyond, to the spaces where over 300 artists lived and worked. All 44 sites featured in the book are members of a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and are open as public museums.
Frommer's is pleased to present an exclusive excerpt of her book.Pictured above: The studio window of American Impressionist William Chadwick on the grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut, where over 100 American Impressionist artists painted
From the book: “The upstairs loft space [at Prouts Neck] opens onto the expansive balcony. Here the painter spent so many hours observing the surf and the changing weather patterns that his [Homer’s] brother purportedly joked that he would wear out both the floorboards and the view. Outside, follow a winding path through tall grasses to the shore and step directly into a Homer seascape, complete with all the sensory aspects he captured so adeptly, from the sublime jumbles of rocks lining the coast to the life-affirming pound of the surf and the salty spray of the Atlantic.”
From the book: “The gardens surrounding the house and studio are the work of [Augustus] Saint-Gaudens with later alterations by landscape architect Ellen Shipman. Brick walkways connect a series of distinct outdoor spaces, or rooms, that are embellished by casts of the artist’s major works (the original monuments can be found throughout the nation). One of the most striking spaces is the Roman-style atrium, where classical colonnades surround a reflecting pool, all bounded by vibrant green grass. At either end of the pool, gilded bronze turtles spout water at blooming lily pads, while the sculptor’s renowned Amor Caritas (1898) looks on.”
From the book: “The raking light that streams through the large, double-sash windows of the boyhood home of Edward Hopper is the same the artist beheld growing up and that he replicated in works again and again as an adult. The signature Hopper light, which he brought to an evolving range of subjects and settings, at once creates a crystalline atmosphere and evokes emptiness and solitude. Hopper once proclaimed, ‘There is sort of elation about sunlight on the upper part of a house,’ and here that sentiment is unmistakably realized.”
From the book: “The interior [of Fonthill Castle] can rightly be described with one word: tilemania! Original Persian, Spanish, Chinese, and Dutch tiles and even clay Babylonian texts grace the walls and ceiling of every room, mingling with [Henry] Mercer’s own tiles produced at the thriving Moravian Pottery and Tile Works he founded on the estate. Ceiling tiles were set into the wet concrete during construction and Mercer’s beloved dog Rollo’s paws are also memorialized on one of Fonthill’s myriad staircases.”
From the book: “Every aspect of Olana’s design—architecture, decoration, and landscape—bears [Frederic] Church’s imprint. Its natural splendor, evident from the moment visitors enter the winding uphill road, suggests the majesty of an iconic Hudson River Valley landscape painting. . . . The composition culminates in the edifice the artist began building in 1870 upon returning from an 18-month sojourn to Europe and the Middle East. The home was inspired by Persia and other Middle Eastern countries, as well as Church’s imagination.”
From the book: “A walk through the lush gardens that Ann Weaver Norton designed in collaboration with her friend, world-renowned botanist Sir Peter Smithers, reveals her wish to create a sanctuary both for people and for abundant flora and fauna. Established only a few years before her death, the gardens are a testament to Norton’s deep commitment to environmentalist principles and provide a permanent home for the monumental works of her late career.”
From the book: “Belmont, his [Gari Melchers'] Virginia estate, represents the 16-year effort he and his wife Corinne invested in creating both a convivial retreat to nurture artistic production and a carefully designed environment that embodies Southern hospitality and a bucolic lifestyle. . . . The showcase of the estate is Gari Melchers' massive granite and sandstone studio, which he designed in the 1920s. Today it houses the largest collection of his paintings and drawings anywhere—some 1,600 items—and features rotating exhibits spanning his career.”
From the book: “The spare interiors of both the house and the studio, a separate building within the compound that includes a large 1950s picture window and attached private bedroom and bathroom, echo the desert landscape the artist reveled in every day. She spent hours exploring the outdoors. During her excursions, she collected objects like weathered bones, rocks, and fossils, often incorporating them into her abstract depictions of the landscape.”
From the book: “Made of repurposed western cedar telephone poles, the studio features a wooden bison silhouette on the door and an ample fireplace at one end. Most of Russell’s more than 4,000 works were painted inside, and for a time horses roamed in a corral out back... Russell’s work depicts the disappearing and rapidly changing Native American and cowboy cultures, the narratives of which are set within the sweeping grandeur of the [Western] landscape.”
From the book: “Inside is a unique combination of midcentury modern design, Southwestern color schemes, and the world’s largest collection of Maloof works, including Sam’s first and last rocking chairs. The house also displays an eclectic mix of the Maloofs' personal collection, including ceramics, pre-Columbian artifacts, examples of 20th-century Native American fine art, textiles, and contemporary artworks—many by California artists—they acquired over many years.”
Valerie Balint's Guide to Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios (256 pages, paperback and e-book) is published by Princeton Architectural Press.
Signed copies are available at Chesterwood.org.