Photo Essays

See the Studios of Artists Past

by Allison Meier on August 2, 2013

Sculptor Helene Sardeau in her studio (photograph by Peter A. July & son, via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Helene Sardeau in her studio (photograph by Peter A. July & son, via Smithsonian Institution)

The Smithsonian Institution has an awesome online archive of old photographs of artists, many in their studios, where sculptors pose midway through work and painters cradle their palettes at their easels. Some have their clothes stained with paint, others obviously spruced up for the portrait occasion. Some are comfortable and confident, others somewhat awkward. Basically, like the cluttered studios, artists haven’t changed.

There is a regular feature on Hyperallergic — View from the Easel — that looks into the interiors of artist studios, and here’s something of a time machine version of that. From heavyweight American sculptors like Daniel Chester French, to lesser-knowns like Helene Sardeau (pictured above), a Belgian-born artist who worked on contemplative, social realism work, there’s this quick insight into process and person. You see the worn artist tools, the random curiosities (like a deer antler hanging from the ceiling, for one), the array of complete and in-process work. And even if you don’t know their art, there’s a lot about an artist embedded in their studio.

Here are some of the Smithsonian archive photographs of artist studios past:

Sculptor Doris Caesar in her studio (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son, via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Doris Caesar in her studio (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son, via Smithsonian Institution)

Abraham Walkowitz in his studio (ca. 1908) (photograph by Carl Shulman, via Smithsonian Institution)

Abraham Walkowitz in his studio (ca. 1908) (photograph by Carl Shulman, via Smithsonian Institution)

Henry Ossawa Tanner in his Paris studio (ca. 1920) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Henry Ossawa Tanner in his Paris studio (ca. 1920) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Joseph Pennell working a printing press in his studio (photograph by Joseph Klima, Jr., via Smithsonian Institution)

Joseph Pennell working a printing press in his studio (photograph by Joseph Klima, Jr., via Smithsonian Institution)

John Quincy Adams Ward in his studio (ca. 1887) (photograph by Pach Brothers, via Smithsonian Institution)

John Quincy Adams Ward in his studio (ca. 1887) (photograph by Pach Brothers, via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Betti Richard in her studio (photograph by Peter A. Juley & Son, via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Betti Richard in her studio (photograph by Peter A. Juley & Son, via Smithsonian Institution)

James Earle Fraser in his studio with his sculptures (ca. 1920) (via Smithsonian Institution)

James Earle Fraser in his studio with his sculptures (ca. 1920) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Selma Hortense Burke in her studio (photograph by Peter A. July & Son, via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Selma Hortense Burke in her studio (photograph by Peter A. July & Son, via Smithsonian Institution)

Painter Kyohei Inukai in his studio (photograph by Paul Juley, via Smithsonian Institution)

Painter Kyohei Inukai in his studio (photograph by Paul Juley, via Smithsonian Institution)

Francis Davis Millet (center) in his studio (ca. 1900) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Francis Davis Millet (center) in his studio (ca. 1900) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Painter Charles Shepard Chapman in his studio (ca. 1920) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Painter Charles Shepard Chapman in his studio (ca. 1920) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Painter Edward Gay in his studio (ca. 1907) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Painter Edward Gay in his studio (ca. 1907) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Daniel Chester French in his Massachusetts studio (ca. 1920) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Daniel Chester French in his Massachusetts studio (ca. 1920) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Jan Matulka in his studio (ca. 1920) (photograph by M. Vu Kovic, via Smithsonian Institution)

Jan Matulka in his studio (ca. 1920) (photograph by M. Vu Kovic, via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Fernando Miranda in his studio (ca. 1870) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Sculptor Fernando Miranda in his studio (ca. 1870) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Painters Edmund Clarence Messer and Blayden Tasker Snyder in a Paris studio (ca. 1884) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Painters Edmund Clarence Messer and Blayden Tasker Snyder in a Paris studio (ca. 1884) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Francis C. Jones in his studio (ca. 1895) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Francis C. Jones in his studio (ca. 1895) (via Smithsonian Institution)

Click here to view all of the Smithsonian Institution’s Portraits of Artists on Flickr Commons

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  • Joshua Bicker

    Beautiful studios, wish I knew who more of these artists are. I don’t recognize most of the name. Still cool though

  • Christina Loraine

    I really enjoyed this :)

  • ronaha

    Very cool to see! There’s only two of these artists that I recognize! Funny thing is that judging the size of most of these studios, in today’s age, most artists wouldn’t be able to afford a studio that size, and not only that, I would guess that the availability of such artists studios are scarce today in large part because of gentrification!

  • skywaterblue

    Not bad representation of women and artists of color here, which is surprising!

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