Six of the best 20th century artist's studios

ARTHUR BOYD

Alongside friend and brother-in-law Sidney Nolan, Boyd was probably Australia's most revered 20th century artist. In 1993, Boyd and his family donated Bundanon, their stunning gum tree-lined 1100-hectare estate on the Shoalhaven River (a three-hour drive from Sydney or Canberra) to the nation. It's already a national treasure, artistic retreat and cultural venue with a program of concerts and events, plus entry to the house itself and views of the superb escarpments which feature in so many of Boyd's landscapes. But in June 2018, the NSW government announced a $8.5 million grant to build "an underground gallery" to properly house the full Boyd family collection. It's valued at $43 million and contains work by Boyd and his many friends (including Nolan, Charles Blackman, Brett Whiteley, John Perceval and John Olsen). See bundanon.com.au

CLAUDE MONET

Even if you're not an art lover, you'll recognise Monet's house at Giverny in Normandy. The most famous of all French Impressionists lived here from 1883 until his death in 1926, planting, then painting his gardens. Each year 500,000 visitors come to inspect the two, very distinctive gardens. Clos Normand is a gently sloping forest of flowers which the artist planted to suit his palette. The more famous water garden was influenced by Monet's passion for Japanese wood prints. From then on, the ageing Monet never needed to leave his gardens (or his orangerie) for inspiration. And the prevailing beauty of Giverny is that you can still recognise the scenes he painted today. See fondation-monet.com

SAVALDOR DALI

The house where Dali worked in Portiligat on Spain's Cap de Creus peninsula is now the Casa-Museu Salvador Dali. The Surrealist made his home here from 1930 until 1982, when his wife Gala died (though they lived in the US for most of the Spanish Civil War and World War II). When Dali bought the property it was a simple fisherman's hut. But just as Dali was his own greatest artistic creation, this is less a house than a work of art. Even in death, Dali remains controversial. In 2017 his body was exhumed to provide a DNA sample in a paternity case involving a professional tarot card reader who claimed to have been his illegitimate daughter (and heiress). She must have read the cards incorrectly. See salvador-dali.org

FRIDA KAHLO

Fittingly, La Casa Azul (The Blue House) in Coyoacan, Mexico City is now the Frida Kahlo Museum. She was born in 1907 in this cobalt-blue house, shared it with her husband (fellow artist Diego Rivera – they were briefly divorced after Rivera had an affair with her sister), and died here in 1954. Kahlo's life was full of injury, anguish, miscarriage and chronic pain. Movingly, her studio contains her wheelchair as well as easel and brushes. Yet she was also greatly embraced. Not just by Rivera but by her many lovers – including Leon Trotsky (Lenin's fellow Bolshevik leader in the 1917 Russian Revolution). See museofridakahlo.org.mx

JACKSON POLLOCK

Almost 50 years after it was purchased for $1.3 million, Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles remains the most controversial canvas in the National Gallery of Australia's collection. He created it in 1952 at The Springs, seven years after he married artist Lee Krasner and they had moved from Manhattan to Long Island to escape Pollock's alcoholic demons. Heiress and arts patron Peggy Guggenheim loaned them the money to buy a homestead near East Hampton where Pollock painted his most enduring work (as depicted in the movie starring Ed Harris as Pollock). Pollock's life was a rollercoaster – especially after Life magazine ran a 1949 cover portraying him as America's greatest living artist. He died in a car accident,  driving drunk while estranged from Krasner. See stonybrook.edu

HANS HEYSEN

As Australia's first celebrity artist, Hans Heysen's house – The Cedars, in the Adelaide Hills – was a magnet for famous visitors, including opera singer Nellie Melba, ballerina Anna Pavlova and thespian Laurence Olivier. His home and studio have been preserved as they were when he died in 1968 – along with many of his favourite paintings and the vintage Ford he never learned to drive. But wait, there's more. One of Heysen's daughters, Nora, was a significant artist in her own right (an official war artist and Archibald prize winner). Shortly before her death in 2003, she was persuaded to allow the museum to recreate the studio where she worked as a young artist. Under the new charitable foundation, there are plans to build a gallery to house the enormous collection of father and daughter. See hansheysen.com.au

Steve Meacham was a guest of the South Australian Tourism Commission, but otherwise travelled at his own expense.

Comments