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Get an Eyeful at the Fanciful Residences of Famous Artists

Where an artist makes their art can be a window into their inspirations and intentions, and can be immensely fun to snoop.

Stepping into an artist’s home or studio can feel like wading into the deep waters of their mind. The outer environment will inevitably reflect their inner world, providing lucky visitors with a VIP trip into their creative universe. Luckily, many such spaces around the world are open to the public, allowing for a more personal art experience than the usual march of galleries. Most places require you to book admission in advance; always check websites prior to travel.

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The Frida Kahlo Museum

WHERE: Mexico City, Mexico

This colorful house was home to painter Friday Kahlo for her tragically short but beautifully creative life. Built by her father before her birth, she grew up here, painted here, and loved and fought here with her artist husband Diego Rivera. The brightly colored walls surrounding the garden courtyard hold whispers of her passionate, rebellious life. Their artwork and artifacts remain as intimate reminders of daily life, allowing a very human glimpse into her world.

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Charleston House

WHERE: Sussex, United Kingdom

This charming 17th-century farmhouse was home to the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant from their arrival in 1916 until Grant’s death in 1978. Over 60 years, the house and walled garden became a country retreat for the many artists and thinkers (among them, Bell’s sister Virginia Woolf) who made up the bohemian Bloomsbury group. Inspired by Italian Frescoes, the artists used the walls, doors, furniture, and ceramics as their canvas and often painted outside in the beautiful garden. The result is a romantic place that feels as free as the people it held.

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The Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio

WHERE: Abiquiu, New Mexico

“All the earth colors of the painter’s palette are out there in the many miles of badlands,” Georgia O’Keeffe said of the landscape surrounding this Spanish Colonial-era compound. She lived and painted here, and saw no distinction between the two. To her, the brushstrokes she made on canvas, her handmade dresses, and the arrangement of found skulls and stones in her simple space were all part of her art. The earth tones, minimal shapes, and mid-century design reflect the dusty desert outside, creating an immersive experience.

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Villa Santo Sospir

WHERE: Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

This idyllic villa was owned by the socialite Francine Weisweiller, but brought to life by the artist Jean Cocteau. Invited for dinner in the Spring of 1950, he ended up staying for 13 years, soon using the white walls as his canvas. His whimsical impressions of the many interweaving friends and lovers who visited the villa covered the walls, floors, and ceilings like an all-engulfing, lyrical fairy tale. It was a dream place for Cocteau to experiment and develop his many disciplines and is now a permanent testament to his magical creativity.

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Claude Monet’s House and Gardens

WHERE: Giverny, France

The house and gardens near Paris where Monet lived with his family provided inspiration for his last and most creative years. With its green shutters and climbing roses, the house blends peacefully with the gardens; not unlike the way a petal melts with sky and water in his impressionist paintings. The gardens are a pastoral paradise complete with a lily pond that inspired so many of his famous works.

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101 Spring Street

WHERE: New York, New York

Bought by Donald Judd in 1968, this five story cast iron building in the heart of Soho became not only his residence and studio but an important example of his permanent installations. Describing its creation, he said, “Everything from the first was intended to be thoroughly considered and to be permanent.” This experiment in space and composition creates an immersive physical experience, and a chance to admire his balance of historical architecture and innovative design.

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Atelier Brancusi

WHERE: Paris, France

Although it’s not the original location, this recreation of Brancusi’s studio is a haven nonetheless. The sculptor, who lived in Paris from 1904 until his death in 1957, bequeathed his studio to the French state, resulting in this reproduction. Presented as a small museum space containing the “studio,” the effect is a quiet reverence for his work; a heightened sense of respect for his placement of the many sculptures, drawings, and photographs which live in the space.

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E-1027

WHERE: Alpes-Maritimes, France

This modernist villa, designed and built by the Irish architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray in 1929 for herself and her lover Jean Badovici, has a story as intriguing as the house itself. The compact, flat-roofed dwelling is a testament to quiet, thoughtful design. Shortly after the house was finished, however, the lovers separated, leaving Badovici alone with a visit from Le Corbusier. The Swiss-born modernist, apparently affronted that such an accomplished example of modern design could be created by a woman, vandalized the simple white house with garish murals. These paintings and their story are as much a reason to visit as any.

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Eames House

WHERE: Pacific Palisades, California

Built by the architects (and married couple) Charles and Ray Eames in 1949, this house is a landmark of mid-century modern design. Their aim was to create a space not only beautiful but practical and filled with life; an antidote to the stark, barren spaces popular at the time. The steel and glass box nestles peacefully into a wooded bluff with eucalyptus trees softening the bright Modrianesque panels. The couple lived here happily until their deaths; a testament to their success.

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Pollack-Krasner House

WHERE: East Hampton, New York

Jackson Pollack bought this simple wooden house in 1945 with his painter wife, Lee Krasner, as a healing retreat from the many demons snapping at his heels. The isolation of the space allowed him to be peaceful and productive. The floor in the converted barn which served as his studio (and later, hers) remains splattered with the manic paint strokes and drips characteristic of his work; creating the illusion of standing within his paintings. The quiet humanity of their domestic space and garden lives in harmony with this kinetic work space. It’s an in-depth look at two artists living and working together at the height of their power.

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Winslow Homer Studio

WHERE: Prouts Neck, Maine

Atop a weather-beaten cliff in Southern Maine sits the house that Winslow Homer called home from 1884 until his death in 1910. Seeking isolation after a lifetime of painting in intense places, from New York City to the front line of the civil war, he found drama anew in these wild views of the Atlantic Ocean. Often considered to be the greatest American painter of the 19th century, Homer is admired for the intense seascapes which he painted from this very spot. A visit here is an opportunity to experience the ever-changing weather of the Maine coast.

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Alice Austen House (Clear Comfort)

WHERE: Staten Island, New York

Alice Austen, one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers, lived on this Staten Island property from the late 1860s until 1945. Her grandfather acquired the original 1690 Dutch farmhouse, added surrounding land and renovated the space into the Carpenter Gothic cottage that would become her home. Amongst her extensive body of work are photographs taken at Clear Comfort itself; documenting not only daily life but the structure and aesthetics of the house which allowed restorers to recreate the space as it was in her time. It is fitting for a photographer whose work offered such clear observations of the world around her that the property has managed to preserve her way of life. A peaceful cottage haven; a moment in time suspended for visitors to enjoy.

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The Andrew Wyeth House and Studio

WHERE: Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

Andrew Wyeth, one of the best known American artists of the 20th century, painted many of his most celebrated works at his home and studio in Pennsylvania. He lived here from his birth in 1917 until his death in 2009, on the property bought by his illustrator father in 1911. Wyeth would find inspiration from the land and people he came across on his local solitary walks. Chadds Ford allows visitors both a taste of this pastoral life and a glimpse of the beautiful studio space where Wyeth was taught to draw by his father. The seeds of his skill planted on the land that would feed his career.

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Olana House

WHERE: Hudson, New York

This Persian-inspired mansion built on 18 acres of Hudson farmland was designed and built by the artist Frederic Church alongside architect Calvert Vaux. Inspired by the time that Church spent traveling with his wife, the house is deeply influenced by the great cities of the Middle East. The eclectic mix of Victorian architecture and Middle Eastern decoration makes this opulent mansion feel like a nod to the great civilizations of the past. Truly a home manifested from the soul of an artist, even the paint colors were designed by Church himself on his own palette. There is a mythical feeling to the framed windows, colored bricks, and Chinese tiles that recall the romantic paintings that made Church such a celebrated painter.

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