The Studio: Workshop and Myth

What would there be in the world of art if it were not for solitude, the glory of being alone, or loneliness, the woe of being by yourself? Relatively speaking, a classic novel cannot be written without sacrificing one’s place in society, no riff can be composed without cutting oneself off from the hustle and bustle of existence and no painting can be executed to perfection if one lets life get in the way.
An artist’s studio therefore is a sacred place where true greatness is achieved, severed as it is from the banal happenings of everyone else. For many, this singular space exists purely for the creation of art – where one is truly uninhibited – a suitable place of escape where climbing the highest mountain and visiting other galaxies is possible. It is a dreamer’s paradise.
This castle of fortitude is surveyed in a show at the Staatsgalerie Stuggart in Germany. It examines two key ideas: what does a studio mean to an artist and how have artists portrayed this space in their work during the modern age?
“Exploring the studio depiction as the point of departure for self-reflection and self-presentation on the part of the artist, the exhibition poses the question as to how art conceives of itself?” the gallery explains.
Dealing with the subject in a chronological fashion, the show starts in the early nineteenth century, where the studio as a space for artistic creation is explored by the romantics of the time. Painters such as Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Gustav Carus saw it as the only place they were capable of existing, their art provocative outside of the room in which it was conceived.
With the early modernist era, artists have become increasingly interested in reflecting on the importance of their studio. Here we see a spate of paintings from the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, René Magritte, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gabriele Münter, Giorgio de Chirico and Georges Braque attempt to come up with colourful insights.
For a while the studio’s place on a canvas is not as deeply explored as before, and the space becomes much more functional once again. It is where the artist is capable of achieving his goals, and capturing it as art seems pointless. However, in the sixties, it re-emerges as a theme, only this time around it isn’t so philosophical, with satire – of the myth of the love affair between artist and space – much more explicit.
Today, the interest in the studio is as prevalent as it has ever been, the gallery states, and artists continue to use it as “the springboard for the critical examination of their own work in ways that are as diverse as they are surprising”.
So intimate are the depictions of the studio that at times it can feel voyeuristic, as if seeing where timeless works of art have been created has given us a glimpse of someone’s soul, which only lovers are ever meant to see and experience. However, that an artist has created such a work suggests that they want to share, as if they are saying, even posthumously, come join me and see me at my most content and anguished.
The Studio: Workshop and Myth, from Spitzweg to Picasso, from Giacometti to Nauman at the Staatsgalerie Stuggart runs until February 10th 2013.
Cadogan Tate can ship works of art from New York to your chosen destination anywhere in the world.