The Atelier Tradition and its Community
No Man is an Island
As John Donne so eloquently expressed, human beings are intricately connected. We are social creatures that coalesce into communities, finding strength and, often, deeper learning in numbers. These communities may be forged through family, friends, work or common interest.
London Fine Art Studios is no exception and fosters a unique community of artists. It does much to dispel the myth of the lonely artist and both students and professional artists study with us for the support and consolidation of core skills.
The atelier method is not a new way of working. The principle of bringing a group of artists together to work under a single roof dates back centuries.
In Italy these botteghe, as they were known, brought together a group of artists under the leadership of a Master. A noteworthy example that set the precedent for Renaissance Italy was that Verrochio’s workshop, where Leonardo da Vinci learnt his craft. Botticelli and Ghirlandaio were also associated with this bottega.
Later, Vasari in his book, The Lives of the Artists, would distinguish between the Florentine and Venetian botteghe drawing attention to the use of line and colour respectively. As a Florentine it comes as no surprise that Vasari prized the skill of line and drawing above the Venetian tendency towards colour. For others the distinction was important but not hierarchical:
“Raphael and Titian seem to have looked at Nature for different purposes; they both had the power of extending their view to the whole; but one looked only for the general effect as produced by form, the other as produced by colour.” (Sir Joshua Reynolds)
Ultimately, the bottega afforded young artists the opportunity to acquire important skills in their chosen profession whilst at the same time earning a living. It was also a way of passing down precious knowledge from one generation to the next, something that was latterly forgotten in the UK:
“Our English painters have no pupils, so the experience they have so laboriously acquired for themselves is of no profit to others.” John Collier- A Manual of oil Painting, 1890.
Italy, however, did not hold the monopoly on artist’s workshops. They were to be found across Europe, Frans Hals students famously took their duties to new levels as they retrieved their Master from many a drunken excursion. Rubens too was heavily influenced by his Italian counterparts and is well documented to have had many artists working under his supervision, including Van Dyke.
Over time the nature of the workshop evolved and the importance of education and training took precedence. In France these workshops were defined as atelier in order to differentiate them from the Académies. They subsequently came to encompass many different creative industries such as haute couture.
It was in Paris, under the tuition of Carolus Duran that Sargent developed as young artist and obtained the foundations from which he would later rise to international repute. Importantly, whilst this community of artists learnt the craft of drawing and painting, they were not indoctrinated in a single style. As Stanley Olson observed in his biography of the artist, John Singer Sargent: A Portrait, their training was in the grammar and each would find their own expression within that:
“Great masters have interpreted nature, and not given a literal translation… Without this individual point of view, there can be no individual work. This shows how dangerous are those schools that, restricting artists to the same methods, do not permit them to develop their individual feeling.”
The Studios, in keeping with a long line of artist’s workshops, has brought together a group of like-minded individuals and offers rigorous training in the skills of drawing and painting. As with the bottega the artist-tutor works alongside the students, teaching by example and demonstration; as with the atelier there is a process but not a uniform style.
However, more importantly, the Studios provide the context for artists to coalesce and grow together through peer exchange, professional networking and the joy of a shared passion. This exceptional community based in Battersea embraces tradition as a means of finding a new, entirely individual painterly style.
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