A little while ago, I discovered a website created by The Museum of London. In a way it's very sad because I came upon it completely by accident archived on their old website. I'm sure most people would never ever find it at all. However I am an inveterate searcher of websites for past exhibitions which is how I came upon the virtual website "Creative Quarters - the art world 1700 - 2000". This seems to have been constructed to support an exhibition of the same name which ran at the Museum of London from March to June in 2001. I found the book of the exhibition as a paperback secondhand edition available from Amazon for an astronomical price.
The idea is that it explores eight areas in London which have been associated with different artists over the years. It works like a matrix - one dimension is the timeline from 1700 through until 2000 and the other dimension is the eight areas of London. It then weaves in the lives of the artists and tells snippets of the story of their lives at different times as well as showing you where exactly on a map they were located.
What I found fascinating is that I knew already many of the connections they identify between artists and places - but I didn't know exact addresses or dates. This site makes what you learn from textbooks or exhibitions seem a bit more real. Plus it reminds you about how parts of London were considerably more rural in times past than they are now!
It also means I'm going to be walking around London in future looking rather more carefully at certain addresses!
The areas are:
- Covent Garden 1700-1800 featuring artists like Hogarth and Reynolds. I've got a sketching trip to Leicester Square lined up for Friday so I think I might sketch artist's houses!
- Marylebone 1760-1850 - and the development of the Artists' parish of Marylebone (although I have to confess I'd never heard of any of the artists identified!)
- Hampstead 1800-1830 - or the "northern heights" which were inhabited by artists such as John Constable, George Romney and William Blake
James Abbot McNeil Whistler
51.44 cm (20.25 in.), Width: 76.52 cm (30.13 in.) , oil on canvas
Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery (Scotland)
- Kensington & Chelsea 1860-1900 - I used to work in Chelsea and I've walked or driven past many of the homes of artists in Kensington & Chelsea, particularly those near to the river. Nevertheless it was still a surprise to see quite how many artists chose to live in this area at the end of the nineteenth century. Artists included James McNeil Whistler (who lived in a house in Lindsay Row), JMW Turner (who also had very strong connections to Covent Garden), and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
- Camden 1905-1920 - this area is of course always associated with not only Walter Sickert and the Camdem Town Group but also the Euston Road School and the Slade School of Art
- Hampstead 1930-1940- again attracted artists 100 years after Constable painted there for much the same reasons. This time the artists included people like Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicolson. Henry Moore also lived there before moving to Hertfordshire
- Soho 1950-1960 - this era is very much associated with organisations rather than individual artists.
- East End 1960-2000 - places also feature in the narrative about the end of the twentieth century.
Although the exhibition says it's tracing the journey of London's artists through the city from the 18th century to the present day, what it does not do is trace how individual artists move around London at different stages of their careers. This seemed to be missing which I thought was a pity.
Initially I was very excited about the website. Ultimately it left me wanting more and wondering when somebody is going to write the definitive guide to where artists lived and where arts organisation were located in London in times past.