Visit the places where some of America’s finest artists created their most famous works.
By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
When we think of artists, it’s usually for the work they produced. Imagine how much more you could appreciate their work if you had a better understanding of the person who created it. And what better way than to visit the artist’s working studio/home? Here are 13 places where you can see fine art and the environment that brought it about. Enjoy.
1. Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, Winter Park, Florida. Sculptor Albin Polasek (1879-1965) retired to Winter Park in 1949 where he continued to create sculptures using stone, bronze, plaster, and wood. In 1961 the facility was opened to the public, and now the residence, museum, and gardens contain more than 200 sculptures, paintings, and drawings by the artist. (407) 647-6294.
2. Grace Hudson Museum And Sun House, Ukiah, California. Nationally recognized for her portraiture of American Indians, Grace Carpenter Hudson (1865-1937) lived with her ethnologist husband in the redwood Sun House, which they used as both a home and a studio. The museum next door features more than 30,000 objects combining the fields of anthropology and art, and contains the world’s largest collection of Grace Hudson paintings. (707) 467-2836.
3. Cedar Grove, The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill, New York. Landscape artist Thomas Cole (1801-1848) painted a large portion of his work in his studio at Cedar Grove. Cole is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School of landscape painting, noted for its realism and detail. Not only can you take a guided tour of Cole’s home and studio but also a guided hike that leads to locations that were the subjects of his paintings. Many other sites depicted in his paintings are within 15 miles of the Cole home, and a brochure gives detailed directions. (518) 943-7465.
4. Charles Demuth House & Garden Museum, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A leader of the American Modernist painters, watercolorist Charles Demuth (1883-1935) did much of his painting in a 13-foot-by-13-foot upstairs room that overlooked his mother’s garden. That same garden provided subjects for many paintings. According to a recent review in the New York Times, “you will discover few watercolors more beautiful than those of Charles Demuth. Combining exacting botanical observation and loosely Cubist abstraction, his watercolors of flowers, fruit, and vegetables have a magical liveliness and an almost shocking sensuousness.” Demuth’s small studio is now one of the galleries in the museum that holds more than 27 pieces of his work. (717) 299-9940.
5. Chesterwood, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) produced some of the most famous monuments we see today. In Concord, Massachusetts, the Minute Man statue stands as a symbol of the Revolutionary War, while in Washington, D.C., the Lincoln Memorial attracts visitors from around the world. Chesterwood, where the French family lived seasonally for more than 30 years, contains the largest collection of art devoted to a single sculptor in America. (413) 298-3579.
6. Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio, Richmond, Virginia. One of the most talented Southern 19th-century sculptors, Edward V. Valentine (1838-1930) specialized in portraiture of American figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Robert E. Lee, and international figures such as Robert Burns. Valentine purchased a carriage house and stable and turned them into a studio where he worked for more than 40 years. You can visit his studio and view hundreds of Valentine’s original works, the tools he used, as well as his personal effects. (804) 649-0711.
7. Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio, Lenox, Massachusetts. American abstract artists George L.K. Morris (1905-1975) and Suzy Frelinghuysen (1911-1988), his wife, were both painters and collectors. Their two-story stucco and glass-block house and studio, set on a 46-acre estate, contain both their work and that of contemporaries such as Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Gris. The house is filled with the original furnishings that were chosen to complement the modern artwork. Since the days and hours of access vary during the year, it’s best to call ahead. (413) 637-0166.
8. Gari Melchers Home And Studio, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Portraitist and American Impressionist painter Gari Melchers (1860-1932) spent much of his early career in Europe, but in 1916 he moved into the Georgian mansion that now displays the largest single collection of his work. In addition to Melchers’ art, the house contains a variety of antique furniture, as well as paintings and prints by many of the Old Masters. Because Melchers’ wife donated the entire home and studio to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1955, this is one of the most complete artist’s homes in the country. (540) 654-1015.
9. Grant Wood Studio, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Perhaps one of the most recognizable American paintings is American Gothic, a portrait of a farmer holding a pitchfork standing with a prim woman, painted by Grant Wood (1891-1942) in 1930. Wood did much of his painting in the upper story of a carriage house that he turned into both a residence and a studio. Another of Wood’s well-known works is The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. (319) 366-7503.
10. N.C. Wyeth House And Studio, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. One of the greatest illustrators of the 20th century was N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), who provided illustrations for books such as Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. In 1911, with the money he received from illustrating Treasure Island, Wyeth bought 18 acres of land where he built his home and studio. The Brandywine River Museum now owns the site and provides hour-long tours Tuesdays through Sundays, April through November. The only access to the site is by museum shuttle bus. They advise calling ahead one day prior to your visit. (610) 388-8326.
11. Olana State Historic Site, Hudson, New York. Olana, the combination Victorian/Persian-style home of landscape painter Frederic E. Church (1826–1900), sits on a 250-acre site with a view of the Catskill Mountains. The exotic interior remains furnished with the many items Church brought back from his worldwide travels, as well as 40 paintings by Church and his many artist friends. The house includes Church’s last studio, built in the late 1880s. (518) 828-0135.
12. Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire. More than 100 pieces of artwork by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907) can be seen in the home, studio, and gardens where this sculptor created many of his most famous works. In addition to the furnished house and gardens, the site boasts three exhibition galleries and a studio for a sculptor-in-residence. Saint-Gaudens was the first sculptor to design an American coin, the $20 gold piece, in 1907. It is considered the most beautiful of its kind. (603) 675-2175, ext. 100.
13. Sam Maloof Historic Residence And Woodworking Studio, Alta Loma, California. One of the finest master craftsmen of our time, Sam Maloof (1916-2009) always said he was “just a woodworker.” But a woodworker whose furniture is in collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the White House Craft Collection. Over the years he created a home that holds examples of his unique furniture as well as his extensive art collection. Residence tours are available only on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. Reservations are strongly recommended. (909) 980-0412.