EU shipping is temporarily suspended

The Artist's Studio: A Cultural History – A Times Best Art Book of 2022

A Cultural History

James Hall


An exciting narrative and visual history of the artist’s studio, examining the myth and reality of the creative space from early times to today

See Inside


The artist’s workplace has always been an imaginary as well as an actual location, an idealized utopia as well as the domain of dirty, back-breaking work. Written descriptions, paintings, prints and even photographs of the artist’s atelier distort as much as they document. This pioneering cultural history charts the myth and reality of the creative space from Ancient Greece to the present day.

Tracing a history that extends far beyond the bohemian, romantic and renaissance cults of the artist, each chapter focuses on key developments of the studio space as seen in a variety of familiar and unfamiliar images. Mythical and divine makers, and some amateurs, are included, and so too are craftspeople – workers in metal and wood, potters, illuminators, weavers, embroiderers and architects to name a few. Each carefully chosen example is placed within a cultural and political context, with the aim of correcting the historical imbalance that has long overlooked the many artisans who collaborated with artists. Leading authority James Hall also extends the discussion to the artist’s museum and the artist’s house, as well plein air painting and the development of portable studios.


'Innovative and wide-ranging … James Hall’s breadth of reference - and choice of images - is impressive, from Greek red figure vases to Francis Bacon’s paint-encrusted and cluttered workspace via Renaissance workshops and the Victorian war chronicler Roger Fenton’s mobile photographic carriage … [the studio] has, as Hall persuasively argues, been integral in artists projecting themselves as being more than mere craftsmen'
The Times, Art Books of the Year

'Ambitious and accessible ... extremely readable, wonderfully illustrated, capacious in its reach and altogether a book to send the reader back to their favourite art with a new set of questions about exactly how and where it was made'
The Art Newspaper

'The Artist's Studio describes how a noisome cockpit of lust, crime and virtuosity produced innovations in how art gets made, and by whom. To you, me and the estate agent, a studio is the most pinched accommodation going, but in Hall’s drily entertaining survey, it has many mansions'

'A thorough exploration of artists’ workspaces ... combines cerebral and beautifully illustrated argument with encyclopaedic information about artists, their working practices and their funny little ways'
Literary Review

'A comprehensive account of much more than the practice of art, and demonstrates how artists have influenced, as well as been affected by, their working spaces from the earliest time'

'Hall’s accounts of the changing nature of artists’ studios from Greek antiquity onwards are enthralling…'
Studio International

'An important study … a compelling narrative'
Elle Decor Italia

'James Hall’s learning is immense, yet he displays his expertise in this lively and entertaining survey of the artist’s studio without a hint of pedantry. Rather, his delivery is fresh and informal, and at times humorous'
Times Literary Supplement

'[A] smart object biography The Artist’s Studio, which follows a similarly vast project from the author on self-portraiture … Hall approaches his subject as a historian - although with the colloquial ease of years spent as a newspaper art critic'
Financial Times

'[A] thoroughly researched and well-illustrated book … Alongside the anecdotes are historical accounts, such as the professionalisation of modelling and the development of the portable painting box'
House & Garden

'A good read with ample illustrations… it’s a welcome addition to cultural histories that tell the story of art in new and interesting ways'

'An important book…Many of the works that Hall analyses and illustrates are very famous, but his point of view is always original'
David Ekserdjian, Il Giornale dell’Arte

'The author does not confine himself to the classic definition of the old master’s studio but takes in all manner of spaces from the goldsmith’s bench to the shoemaker’s workshop. Hall makes this range and diversity his strength, and out of this arises a fresh and unexpected take on the history of Western art'
World of Interiors

'Informative and enjoyable'
The Artist

Read More

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 288 pp

Illustrations: 125

Publication date: 20 October 2022

ISBN: 9780500021712

Contents List

1. Luxury and Lameness: the Shield of Achilles
2. Wisdom’s Workshop: Simon the Shoemaker
3. Struggles in the Scriptorium: Waging War on Dead Skin
4. Pure Gold: doing God’s (or the Devil’s) Work.
5. The Velvet Revolution: Cennini’s Studietto
6. Piety and Pretentiousness: St Luke paints the Virgin.
7. ‘Always Keeping Paper in his Hand’: A School for Art and Scandal
8. In and Out of the Comfort Zone: Leonardo versus Michelangelo
9. Creatures of the Night: ‘Only the dark serves to plant man’
10. Making a Spectacle: The Systematic Studio
11. Mirrors of Process: Velázquez to Reynolds
12. Women in the Studio: Love, Inspiration, Destitution, Crimes of Passion
13. Chaste Space: Cells and Garrets
14. Eliminating Easels: Workshop and Factory
15. Inside / Outside: Studios for Nomads

About the Author

James Hall is an art critic, historian, lecturer and broadcaster. He was formerly Chief Art Critic of The Sunday Correspondent and of the Guardian. He contributes to the Guardian Saturday Review, The Times and Times Literary Supplement, as well as to many magazines and catalogues. He is the author of several books including The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History (Thames & Hudson, 2014), which the Sunday Times hailed as 'fascinating, erudite and beautifully produced'.

Related Topics