Some of the images from Leon van den Eijkel’s Facebook wall, including (clockwise from left) Henri Matisse, Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona (aka “Art Cage!”), Joan Miró’s studio on Mallorca and Cy Twombly. (via FB)

CHICAGO — Hat tip to Paul Klein in Chicago for alerting me via Facebook to artist Leon van den Eijkel, who has posted a gigantic number of photos of artists’ studios (predominantly historical) on his Facebook Wall. Be warned: if you follow the link, you can say goodbye to whatever it is you were doing that you thought was important, pressing or legally necessary (like filing your US tax returns before midnight).

Given the absence of attribution, it’s fair to say that van den Eijkel is probably reposting pictures in the public domain or via “fair use” resharing — we’re hoping. But as Paul Klein observed, he’s dug up some real treasures, and it’s great to see so many in one place. So on one long page you can look at Cy Twombly’s warehouse-like space filled with some of his last works (“I want his name and his studio!” says one comment); Joan Miró’s studio in a stone barn on Mallorca (“I want a studio like that!”); Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona (“Art Cage!”).

I’ve always loved seeing an artist’s studio, whether by entering the physical space of a living or dead artist, or by looking at photos (one of my earliest obsessions was with that well-known picture of Picasso in his studio in the Bateau Lavoir, around 1907, surrounded by early Cubist canvases and African carvings). That’s the main reason why I created and curate the View from the Easel series: it’s fascinating to see the places where things get made, the refuse and debris that are the by-product of or the raw material for the works themselves.

What is it that fuels our fascination? Is it pure voyeurism, the feeling that we are seeing something forbidden? Is it religious fetishism, as if by entering de Kooning’s studio in our imagination we can get some of the magic to rub off on us? Is it because the artist’s life, and the space of creation, offers a fantasy of leisurely freedom from the everyday horrors that we all grapple with most of our lives? Maybe it’s nothing more complicated than this comment from Leon van den Eijkel’s page (original punctuation preserved):

“I love seeing artists studios..Its their window of their soul…..”

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Philip A Hartigan

Philip Hartigan is a UK-born artist and writer who now lives, works and teaches in Chicago. He also writes occasionally for Time Out-Chicago. Personal narratives (his own, other peoples', and invented)...