When an artist creates their own home, can that space influence its surrounds? Or is it the land and streetscape which inhabit the home—and the person? The private spaces of some of the twentieth century’s most fascinating artists are preserved as clues to this question, and tell us something about the mercurial relationship between artist, home and environment. From the surrealism that Dalí transposed onto a small Spanish fishing village, to the vibrancy of a Marrakech villa and garden that worked its way into Yves Saint Laurent’s psyche and collections, here are four homes that hold a very special place in the heart of their locale.
Salvador Dalí standing on the stairs of his house in Portlligat. Image via Dalí Foundation.
Salvador Dalí House, Portlligat, Spain
You see it there in the background of his most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, and in many more: Portlligat, a small village near Cadaqués on the coast of Catalonia in Spain. The scenic bay that Salvador Dalí’s father grew up in inspired the artist as a young boy; so much so that he chose to reside there from 1930 to 1982. Dalí’s surrealistic sensibility touched not only this landscape through painting, but also in creating his labyrinthine house. Starting its life as a fisherman’s hut, the home was elaborated upon little by little by Dalí and his wife and muse, Gala. Open today as a museum, it is as wonderfully madcap as any melting clock.
Frida Kahlo outside her home in Mexico City, 1951. Photo by Florence Arquin.
The Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico
Frida Kahlo is synonymous with Mexico, and La Casa Azul—the blue house that she lived and died in—is, today, one of Mexico City’s most visited museums. It is full of paintings and other paraphernalia: folk art, photographs, papier-mâché skeletons that bring the artist vividly back to life. Much like her home, the surrounding streets speak of the artist at every turn. Coyoacán, for a long time an independent part of the city, was the heartbeat of intellectual and artistic life in Kahlo’s day and its progressive, rebellious and bohemian spirit remains.
Yves Saint Laurent in his house in Marrakech. Photo by Pierre Boulat.
Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco
Jardin Majorelle was a forty year passion project for French painter Jacques Majorelle. Its trademark “Majorelle blue” coats all conceivable surfaces in the artist’s hope to emulate the intense shade of blue in Moroccan tiles, Berber and local buildings. In time, this space and its colours, would inspire another great artist. In 1980, Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought and rescued the garden and moved into its villa. Morocco, and this garden, enchanted Saint Laurent, working their way into his collections. A new museum dedicated to the memory of Yves Saint Laurent, which is set to open within the garden’s premises in September 2017, will prove a vibrant testament to this.
Barbara Hepworth in her St Ives sculpture garden in 1970. Photo by Jeremy Miles via Tate archive.
Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives, UK
With its major retrospective, Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World, Tate Britain examines the work of one of Britain’s great 20th century artists. A trip south-west from London will lead you to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in Cornwall’s coastal town of St. Ives, where Hepworth lived and worked for half her life until her death in 1975. Here, the landscape and environment seeped into her works in bronze, stone and wood. “Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic,” the artist wrote after she arrived there in 1949. “Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space.”