Home is where the art is — whether they’re in the heart of a teeming city, an arid desert landscape or the lush French countryside, the homes of great artists have often stimulated the creative urge. VL Hendrickson and Yanni Tan offer a guided tour of six such residences.
Jacques Majorelle, Marrakesh, Morocco
The French painter was an early Modernist and Orientalist who travelled extensively throughout the Mediterranean and northern Africa, especially Morocco, for inspiration. The son of celebrated Art Nouveau furniture maker Louis Majorelle, he’s more famously known as the artist whose home Jardin Majorelle was rediscovered in 1980 and then purchased and restored by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. The Cubist residential villa situated within the gardens was designed by architect Paul Sinoir in 1931, after which Majorelle painted it a bright and bold cobalt blue that was reminiscent of ceramic pottery and tiles common in southern Morocco and became known as “Majorelle Blue”. During the nearly four decades he spent in Marrakesh, he extended the 1.6ha grounds gradually to over 5ha, and created what would be known as his greatest work ever – a luxuriant garden of cacti and sculptures. Today, the entire garden and villa complex is run by a local non- profit organisation and houses several museums, including the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, and spaces that exhibit Majorelle’s paintings. The 1ha manicured gardens itself is open to the public and a major tourist destination in the city – featuring numerous stunning fountains, rare cacti and over 15 endemic bird species.
The Bauhaus Masters, Dessau-Roßlau, Germany
Located in Dessau-Roßlau, the third largest city in the Saxony-Anhalt region of Germany, Bauhaus is one of the epicentres of the Bauhaus movement in art, design and architecture. Literally translated as “construction house” in German, Bauhaus originated in the early 20th century as an arts academy founded by Walter Gropius, and is characterised by functionality, simplicity and the harmony of geometric shapes. During its heyday, its base in what was then called Dessau was the birthplace of industrial-inspired products and design created for mass consumption. While its unique Modernist aesthetic has since swept across the world and taken hold in contemporary design, one can still visit the original buildings where the famous Bauhaus masters such as László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Gropius himself lived, worked and taught in. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the Bauhaus Dessau campus includes the Bauhaus Building, the Masters’ Houses, the Dessau- Törten Housing Estate, the Kornhaus, House Fieger, the Steel House and the Employment Office. On site is also the Bauhaus Museum Dessau, which features over 1,000 colourful exhibits out of its permanent collection of 49,000 ranging from ceramics to furniture, and tells the story of the school’s vibrant history.
From top: The Bauhaus building designed by Walter Gropius; the Kandinsky/Klee Master House was extensively restored in recent years; the Kornhaus restaurant was commissioned
Claude Monet, Giverny, France
The Impressionist artist Claude Monet lived in Giverny, around 80km northwest of Paris, for 43 years. The village – and Monet’s house and garden – were the subject of many of his paintings, and were landscaped by the artist himself before he painted them, thus, in a sense, creating them twice. There are two main parts to the grounds, starting with a flower garden in front of the house called Clos Normand, which was planted after Monet’s arrival with an orchard, fruit and ornamental trees, climbing roses and a mix of simple daisies and poppies with other more rare varieties.
Ten years after moving to the area, Monet bought additional land across the street and created a Japanese-inspired water garden, where he painted the bridge covered with wisterias, other smaller bridges, weeping willows and the famous nymphéas (water lilies) that bloom all summer long. His family lived in the grounds, while Monet himself used a barn as a studio.
Visitors can glimpse the blue sitting room, two-toned yellow dining room, and even the bed where the artist died in 1926 at age 86. The grounds fell into disrepair after Monet’s death, but a concerted effort and restoration were made in the 1970s. It opened to the public in 1980, though advance reservations are currently required to visit.
Georgia O’Keeffe, Abiquiú, New Mexico
Georgia O’Keeffe, known for her vivid nature paintings, called the American Southwest home for more than 40 years, after moving there in 1943. Her first trip to northern New Mexico was in 1929, and she visited the area during the summer for the next 20 years. She finally settled there in 1949, three years after the death of her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz.
O’Keeffe lived and painted in Abiquiú, some 80km north of Santa Fe, the New Mexico capital. Much of her work was inspired by the area’s desert landscape, as well as its Native American and Hispanic cultures. Her paintings of sun-bleached skulls with backdrops of bright blues or muted earth tones were inspired by the surroundings of her adobe home and studio. The house itself was an inspiration, with one of its doors being the subject of more than 20 canvases, as were the cottonwood trees that grew in the Chama River Valley below her studio.
According to the website of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, which houses the artist’s paintings and works on paper and runs the Abiquiú studio site, her paintings “coincided with a growing interest in regional scenes by American Modernists seeking a distinctive view of the nation”.
Frida Kahlo, Coyoacán, Mexico City
“The house, painted blue inside and out, seems to shelter a bit of sky,” wrote poet Carlos Pellicer about the Blue House, or La Casa Azul, the long-time home of Mexican portrait and self-portrait painter Frida Kahlo. The artist lived on the property for most of her life, first with her family and later with her artist husband, Diego Rivera. The house and gardens are preserved as the artist left them, with many of her personal items and furniture on display, including a selection of her dresses.
Pellicer, who was close to the couple, catalogued the contents of the home for the museum, and now visitors can see work by both Kahlo and Rivera, as well as their personal art collection, photographs, documents and books. The grounds also feature pre-Columbian sculptures, of which Rivera was an avid.
Kahlo also wanted to make sure her legacy was preserved, and wished to give the home to the country of Mexico. Rivera organised the museum after her death in 1954 and it opened in 1958. Reservations are required at the museum, and virtual tours of the galleries and lush landscaped gardens are also available.
Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Long Island, New York
Abstract expressionist painters Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner shared a home and creative space in East Hampton on Long Island for more than 10 years, with Krasner living and working there part-time for close to 30 more. The artist couple moved to the area, a coastal retreat for New Yorkers, in 1945, just two weeks after they were married in Manhattan. Each of them had their own studio space: Krasner’s was in the back parlour, while Pollock painted in an unheated bedroom and, later, a barn behind the home. The artists made a number of improvements to the property, including a winter-proofing in 1953 that involved a new floor for Pollock’s studio. Fast forward about 25 years, and that treatment was removed to reveal remnants of some of Pollock’s most famous poured paintings, such as Autumn Rhythm, Blue Poles and Lavender Mist. Krasner’s dynamic gestural paintings, including Gaea and Siren, are also on view to visitors at the Pollock-Krasner House. A virtual-reality tour shows where several works were created and includes a recording of the artists discussing the creative process. Krasner continued to divide her time between New York and the Hamptons after Pollock died in 1956, until a few years before her death in 1984. Guided tours at the house, which opened as a museum in 1988, are available by reservation.
(Main and featured image: Maison et Jardins Claude Monet – Giverny / Droits)
This story first appeared in Prestige Hong Kong.