by Louise Campbell. Lund Humphries, February 2020. 288 p. ill. ISBN 9781848223134 (h/c), $69.99.
Reviewed March 2020
Karyn Hinkle, Visual and Performing Arts Librarian, Lucille C. Little Fine Arts Library, University of Kentucky, firstname.lastname@example.org
This smart and copiously researched monograph by art and design historian Louise Campbell examines case studies of sixteen British artists’ studios and “studio-dwellings.” Campbell shows how artists were involved in the architectural designs of their studio spaces and homes, and considers the impact studio architecture had on their work and relationships. Studio Lives provides a new perspective on how architects interacted with artists in the early 20th century—not autocratically, as modern-period architects are often assumed to have worked, but in actuality very collaboratively.
Campbell draws her research from archives, drawings and plans, letters, photos, published interviews with the artists and architects, and contemporary fiction and periodical publications. Happily, many primary source images have been reproduced and included in the book, alongside many images of works of art that were created in the studios, as well as paintings and portraits that depict the artists’ studios. The illustrations, and the author’s passion for the topic, bring the period and its artistic environment to life. Campbell’s description of spaces is particularly vivid. It is easy for readers to envision, for example, Roger Fry’s house, where “visitors descended a half flight of stairs to the great central living-hall, or climbed a half-flight to a gallery running along the upper level of the hall,” or the gallery in William Reid Dick’s studio, “accessed by a timber staircase whose cubic forms echo the intricate spatial play of the newel posts and beams in the Glasgow School of Art stairwell, familiar to both Tait and Reid Dick.”
In addition to Roger Fry and William Reid Dick, Campbell studies the studios of individual artists including Eileen Agar, Augustus John, Gluck, Dora Gordine, Frederick Edward McWilliam, Alastair Morton, William Orpen, Henry Payne, and George Frederic Watts. She also analyzes artist-couples: Quentin Bell and Virginia Woolf, Winifred Nicholson and Ben Nicholson, and Barbara Hepworth and John Skeaping—and Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, after they split from their previous partners and combined studios again. As indicated by the book’s title, the topic is geographically narrowly focused on Britain, and the timespan for Campbell’s research (which is not well-described by the broad “20th-Century” in the title) is narrow as well; it begins in the late nineteenth-century Victorian era and stops before the Second World War. However, this close focus provides an innovative way to examine the intersection of art and architecture, and Campbell’s interdisciplinary approach would be a wonderful model for researchers to apply to other places and eras.
The book is beautifully published by Lund Humphries. It is illustrated throughout with high quality black-and-white images and includes a 32-page color insert, with a detailed bibliography, index, and notes. Lund Humphries’s art and architecture list is one to keep both eyes on.