the artist in her studio

“The Artist’s Studio”: Iconic Images to Inspire Your Modern-Day Atelier

10 min read

In this article, we explore some of the most iconic paintings and photos of artists’ studios. From grand studios of 19th-century masters to intimate ateliers of contemporary artists, these spaces offer a unique glimpse into the artistic process and the environments that shape it. After all, what offers more insight into the personal and professional worlds of the artists who occupied them than the studios in which they studied, drafted, and created? Whether you’re setting up your own space or simply seeking inspiration, we hope these artist studios spark your creative fire!

Gustave Courbet’s The Artist’s Studio or The Painter’s Studio (1855)

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Gustave Courbet’s The Artist’s Studio: A Real Allegory Summing Up Seven Years of My Life as an Artist (1855) is a monumental Realist painting that measures over 150 by 230 inches. Currently housed at Musée d’Orsay, this work depicts Courbet at the center, painting a landscape. He is flanked by a diverse group of people.

To his right are figures representing his supporters (friends and patrons). To his left are characters symbolizing society at large, including the marginalized and impoverished. This composition reflects Courbet’sdesire to portray everyday life and social issues with unflinching honesty. It is an allegory of Courbet’s career: his commitment to realism and his critical view of the art world. As you examine this piece, we urge you to meditate on how your own art or design career responds to issues of our time.

Unfortunately, Courbet’s actual studio is not preserved as a museum. However, many of his works are available to the public. Visitors can view the painting pictured above and other masterpieces by Courbet at the Musée d’Orsay. Curious? Find this museum on the left bank of the Seine in a former railway station. It’s easily accessible by public transportation like the Paris Métro and various bus lines.

Jan Vermeer’s The Art of Painting (1666-1668)

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Johannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting (1666-1668) is one of his most celebrated works. The painting depicts an artist, which historians have identified as Vermeer himself, seated at an easel. In this painting, the artist sketches a model dressed as Clio, the muse of history. The intricate details like the map on the wall and the rich drapery obscuring the lower left corner highlight Vermeer’s incomparable mastery of light and texture.

While Vermeer’s actual studio no longer exists, this painting is housed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Visitors can view this masterpiece along with other significant works from various periods. The museum is located in the historic center of Vienna and is easily accessible by public transportation.

John Singer Sargent’s An Artist in His Studio (1904)

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John Singer Sargent’s An Artist in His Studio depicts his friend and fellow artist Ambrogio Raffele at work. Sargent painted Raffele many times throughout his career. This painting in particular offers an intriguing glimpse into the artistic processes of both Raffele and Sargent. It showcases Sargent’s skill in capturing the nuances of light and texture while capturing Raffele’s intense concentration. Sargent’s painting highlights the intimate and collaborative nature of the artist’s studio. As you examine this piece, we encourage you to think about how you might depict your creative friends as they work. How can you draw from their practices?

Sargent set up studios all across the world, including London, Paris, and New York, but none are preserved as museums. However, his works are widely exhibited in major art museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Britain in London.

David Hockney’s Studios

David Hockney is one of the most influential and versatile artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. He, too, has worked in numerous studios throughout his prolific career. Each of these studios has significantly influenced his work—reflecting his evolving artistic styles, interests, and media.

Hockney’s Los Angeles Studio

David Hockney moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s. His studio there became the home base for his exploration of vibrant colors and light. Hockney’s Los Angeles studio environment profoundly influenced his famous swimming pool series. Notable works created during this period include “A Bigger Splash” (1967) and “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” (1972). The bright, open spaces of his studio allowed him to experiment with new techniques and large-scale compositions.

Hockney has also established studios in Paris, London, Bridlington, and Normandy. Many of Hockney’s digital iPad drawings were done from his home in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. Learn more about Hockney’s recent pursuits here.

Paul Cézanne’s Atelier in Aix-en-Provence, France

Paul Cézanne’s studio, known as Atelier Cézanne, is a preserved historical site in Aix-en-Provence, France. Cézanne worked in this studio from 1902 until his death in 1906. It is where he created many of his later masterpieces. The studio remains much as it was during Cézanne’s lifetime. The space is still filled with objects that appear in his still lifes, including pottery, vases, and the skulls he famously painted. Close observation and a unique approach to color and form were both foundational to Cézanne’s working method, which laid the groundwork for ground-breaking modern art movements.

At 9 Avenue Paul Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence, Atelier Cézanne is often open to the public. This space offers a rare and exceptionally intimate glimpse into the artist’s creative environment. While the workshop is currently closed for renovations, visitors will soon be able to return.

Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656)

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Las Meninas is a famous painting by Spanish Baroque court painter Diego Velázquez. A somewhat surreal painting, this picture includes the artist himself at work in the royal studio of the Alcázar Palace in Madrid. At the center of Velázquez’s piece is the young Infanta Margarita, surrounded by her entourage. Across the room, a mirror reflects King Philip IV and Queen Mariana out to the viewer.

Las Meninas is housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. The Prado is one of the most prestigious art galleries in the world. It offers visitors the opportunity to view this iconic painting along with many other masterpieces by Velázquez.

Emile Masson’s Self-Portrait in the Artist’s Studio (1862)

Self-Portrait in the Artist’s Studio (1862) by Emile Masson offers an intriguing glimpse into the artist’s personal workspace. This chaotic painting by the Boston-based artist is rich in detail. With its odd perspective, one is unsure which objects were truly located in the studio and which were symbolic in nature. Regardless, this painting captures the cluttered yet vibrant environment where Masson created his art.

Masson is depicted at his easel, painting a woman in draped dress while another man sits at the end of a felted table. Another figure, possibly a patron or a visitor, stands in the doorway observing. Whether it makes you chuckle or leaves you feeling disquieted, this painting is one of the most interesting and surprisingly modern on our list.

Henri Matisse’s The Red Studio (1911)

Few artist studios are as storied as Henri Matisse’s Red Studio, which was subject of a series of paintings commissioned by one of his patrons. This vibrant, monochromatic painting depicts the artist’s studio in Issy-les-Moulineaux. The studio is filled with Matisse’s paintings, sculptures, and furniture—all rendered in bold red hues. This work exemplifies Matisse’s Fauvist style, which is characterized by its vivid colors and abstract forms. However, this painting was actually initially rejected by its original patron.

The Red Studio is currently housed at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. Visitors can explore this work and many others by Matisse in MoMA’s extensive collection of modern art.

Francisco Goya’s Self-portrait at an Easel (1790-1795)

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Self-portrait at an Easel or Self-portrait in the Studio is a cabinet-format portrait created by Francisco de Goya between 1790 and 1795. In this painting, Goya portrays himself standing at an easel and working on a canvas. The self-portrait captures his intense gaze and the tools of his trade. Unlike other portraits in this list, de Goya does not look at the easel. Instead, he stares out at the viewer. There’s not much to pull from such a limited portrait, but it certainly underscores the importance of natural light in an art studio!

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While Goya’s specific studio is not preserved, many of his works can be seen at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. The museum houses an extensive collection of Goya’s paintings, drawings, and prints. However, the painting pictured above is currently housed in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, which is also in Madrid.

Lee Krasner’s East Hampton Studio in 1962

Lee Krasner’s studio in East Hampton, New York was the birthplace of her many significant contributions to the Abstract Expressionist movement. The studio was originally shared with her husband, Jackson Pollock, but later became solely Krasner’s after Pollock’s untimely death in 1956. This studio provided Krasner with the solitude and inspiration she needed to create her large-scale abstract works. Its high ceilings and expansive floor space allowed her to work on her monumental canvases, which she often laid flat on the ground to paint. This technique enabled her to apply vigorous brushstrokes and dynamic compositions that reflect the intensity and emotional depth her works embody.

The Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in East Hampton, New York, now preserves Lee Krasner’s studio. Open to the public, this historic site offers a unique opportunity to step into the very space where both Krasner and Pollock created their masterpieces. Visitors can explore the barn studio, which remains much as it was during Krasner’s lifetime, complete with the original paint-splattered floors and walls. The house and grounds also provide context about their lives, with guided tours offering insights into their artistic processes and personal histories.

Yayoi Kusama in Her New York Studio in 1960

Yayoi Kusama’s studios in Tokyo and New York are the origins of her famous art installations and bold paintings. Her studio spaces are filled with the vibrant colors and polka dots that reflect her unique artistic vision and obsession with repetitive patterns. While Kusama’s private studios are not open to the public, her Infinity Rooms and other installations are exhibited worldwide. Major museums like The Broad in Los Angeles and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. often feature her works. Her work can also be seen at David Zwirner Gallery.

Frida Kahlo’s La Casa Azul / Casa Azul Museum

Frida Kahlo’s La Casa Azul (The Blue House) in Coyoacán, Mexico City, is a vibrant reflection of her life, art, and cultural heritage. Originally built by Kahlo’s father in 1904, the house became her lifelong home and the center of her artistic world. The studio is still filled with bright colors, traditional Mexican folk art, and personal artifacts. It was here that Kahlo created many of her most famous works. This space is rich with the character and spirit of Kahlo, embodying her unique artistic vision and deep connection to Mexican culture. Iconic paintings were conceived and crafted within these walls, making La Casa Azul an essential part of her legacy.

Today, La Casa Azul is preserved as the Frida Kahlo Museum. Visitors can explore her studio, living quarters, and the beautiful garden, which features a variety of native Mexican plants and traditional decorations. The museum also displays many of her personal items like her paints, easel, and even her orthopedic corsets. To visit La Casa Azul, you can find it at Londres 247, Coyoacán, Mexico City. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and it’s recommended to purchase tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. For detailed visiting hours, ticket prices, and additional information, check the Frida Kahlo Museum’s official website.

Louise Bourgeois in Her East 18th Street Apartment Studio in 1946

This snapshot of Louise Bourgeois’s studio in New York City is particularly special. Known for her large-scale sculptures and installations, Bourgeois’s work often explored themes of identity, family, and memory. Her studio was filled with materials and tools that facilitated her sculptural practice.

The Easton Foundation, which preserves Bourgeois’s legacy, occasionally offers tours of her New York studio by appointment. Many of her works are also exhibited in major museums worldwide, such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. For visiting details and current exhibitions, check the Easton Foundation and MoMA’s official websites.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Studio in Abiquiú, New Mexico

Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio in Abiquiú, New Mexico provides one of the most comprehensive peaks into the life and work of an iconic American artist. After first visiting New Mexico in 1929, O’Keeffe fell in love with the landscape and eventually made it her permanent home. In 1945, she purchased a dilapidated adobe hacienda in the small village of Abiquiú and spent four years restoring it. The property offered stunning views of the Chama River Valley and the surrounding mesas, which became central subjects in her artwork.

O’Keeffe’s studio in Abiquiú provided the perfect setting for her to capture the essence of the Southwest’s unique beauty. The clean, minimalist lines of the adobe architecture influenced her approach to painting, and the natural light streaming through the large windows illuminated her canvases. She often painted from her studio window, capturing the changing light and seasons. Pieces created here reflected her deep connection to the desert landscape. Many were characterized by bold colors and abstracted forms that convey the vastness and serenity of the region.

In scrolling through photos of Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio and home, we urge you to consider how the surrounding landscape impacts your artistic process. If you are a designer, how do the colors, forms, textures, and interplay of light influence you?

Visiting Georgia O’Keeffe’s Studio

The Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiú is preserved and open to the public. The site offers a rare opportunity to explore the space where O’Keeffe lived and worked. Visitors can tour the home, which has been meticulously restored to reflect how it looked during O’Keeffe’s residence. The tour includes her studio, kitchen, and living spaces, providing insights into her daily life and creative process. The studio is filled with the tools and objects that inspired her, offering a personal glimpse into her world.

Final Thoughts on Creating an Inspiring Studio

We hope these glimpses into the studios of iconic artists have inspired you to think about your own creative spaces. Whether it’s a dedicated room in your home, an ADU on your property, or a spot by the window, the environment where you create can have a profound impact on your work.

We’d love to hear from you!

Share photos and stories of the spaces that fuel your creativity. How do your surroundings inspire your artistic journey? Tag us on social media or leave a comment below to join the conversation and inspire fellow artists with your unique creative haven.