From the inside out — 10 scenes from the artist’s window

As people everywhere attempt to come to terms with the new reality, we explore how great artists of the past communicated their feelings about the world beyond their windows — and, on occasion, their sense of detachment from it

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  • Lucian Freud Waste Ground, Paddington

Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Waste Ground, Paddington, 1970. Oil on canvas. 28 x 28  in (71.1 x 71.1  cm). Sold for $7,781,000 on 12 November 2014 at Christie’s in New York. © The Lucian Freud Archive  Bridgeman Images

Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Waste Ground, Paddington, 1970. Oil on canvas. 28 x 28 in (71.1 x 71.1 cm). Sold for $7,781,000 on 12 November 2014 at Christie’s in New York. © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

Following the death of his architect father, Ernst L. Freud — himself the fourth child of Sigmund Freud — in 1970, Lucian Freud (1922-2011) began to paint terraced houses and factories. In Waste Ground, Paddington, created that same year, Freud depicted the debris outside his studio window with the same intimate scrutiny that he applied to his nudes and portraits. 

‘I was very conscious as I looked out of the window at the back that more and more people were leaving and that it got emptier and emptier,’ he recalled later. Over the next two years, the artist would find respite from his grief in these seemingly mundane views.

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  • Pierre Bonnard La porte-fenêtre avec chien

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), La porte-fenêtre avec chien, 1927. Oil on canvas. 42¼ x 24⅞  in (107.3 x 63.2  cm). Sold for $4,212,500 on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in New York

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), La porte-fenêtre avec chien, 1927. Oil on canvas. 42¼ x 24⅞ in (107.3 x 63.2 cm). Sold for $4,212,500 on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in New York

Every day for the last two decades of his life, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) and his wife Marthe ate breakfast and lunch in the small sitting room on the second floor of their modest villa, Le Bosquet (‘The Grove’), overlooking the bay of Cannes. The couple purchased the house in 1926, as the artist neared 60 years of age, and Bonnard created this painting the following year. 

The rooms of Le Bosquet would remain Bonnard’s greatest source of inspiration in his final years. According to his great-nephew, Michel Terrasse, he made 59 paintings of the dining room, 21 paintings of the sitting room, 15 paintings of the bathroom and six paintings of his bedroom at Le Bosquet.

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  • Camille Pissarro Le Pont-Neuf, après-midi de pluie, 1re série

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Le Pont-Neuf, après-midi de pluie, 1re série, 1901. Oil on canvas. 32 x 25¾  in (81.2 x 65.4  cm). Sold for $6,517,500 on 11 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Le Pont-Neuf, après-midi de pluie, 1re série, 1901. Oil on canvas. 32 x 25¾ in (81.2 x 65.4 cm). Sold for $6,517,500 on 11 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

In December 1900 Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) took up residence on the second floor of 28 place Dauphine in Paris, overlooking the Pont-Neuf, the oldest bridge over the river Seine. 

‘An exquisite and captivating subject,’ the artist wrote of the view. ‘Since I’ve been in Paris, I’ve been able to work from my window incessantly.’ Over the next three years, Pissarro created 13 paintings of Pont-Neuf from his apartment window, depicting the bridge in sun, cloud, rain, mist, frost and snow.

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  • Gustave Caillebotte L'Homme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1893), LHomme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann, 1880. 45⅞ x 35⅛  in (116.5 x 89.5 cm). Sold for $14,306,000 on 8 May 2000 at Christie’s in New York

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1893), L'Homme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann, 1880. 45⅞ x 35⅛ in (116.5 x 89.5 cm). Sold for $14,306,000 on 8 May 2000 at Christie’s in New York

One of Gustave Caillebotte’s (1848-1893) favourite themes, the balcony was a motif for bourgeois 19th-century Parisian life — a place where the wealthy could observe the streets and also be seen. 

‘It is through a window that we communicate with the outside world,’ Caillebotte once wrote. Here, the artist captured the view from his own apartment, paying as much attention to the design of his balcony railings and overhanging canopy as he does the houses across the boulevard.

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  • Spencer Frederick Gore From a Window in the Hampstead Road

Spencer Frederick Gore (1878-1914), From a Window in the Hampstead Road, 1911. Oil on canvas. 14 x 10  in (35.5 x 25.4  cm). Sold for £115,250 on 18 June 2008 at Christie’s in London

Spencer Frederick Gore (1878-1914), From a Window in the Hampstead Road, 1911. Oil on canvas. 14 x 10 in (35.5 x 25.4 cm). Sold for £115,250 on 18 June 2008 at Christie’s in London

Spencer Frederick Gore (1878-1914) painted this scene during his brief stay at artist Walter Sickert’s home in Camden, North London, in the summer of 1911. The view shows Hampstead Road and Rutland Street, with a housemaid scrubbing the steps leading up to a doctor’s surgery. Gore was so inspired by his stay that he moved into the neighbourhood a year later.

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  • C.R.W. Nevinson From a Venetian Window

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, A.R.A. (1889-1946), From a Venetian Window, 1934. Oil on canvas. 25½ x 30½  in (64.8 x 77.4  cm). Sold for £100,900 on 20 November 2013 at Christie’s in London

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, A.R.A. (1889-1946), From a Venetian Window, 1934. Oil on canvas. 25½ x 30½ in (64.8 x 77.4 cm). Sold for £100,900 on 20 November 2013 at Christie’s in London

In the 1930s C.R.W. Nevinson (1889-1946) put behind him the abstract style of his early career and war period, and turned towards a more realistic and traditional way of painting. 

This 1934 view looks out of a bedroom window from the Giudecca, an island in the Venetian lagoon. ‘[Venice] was the first place to inspire me to be an artist and it may be the last,’ Nevinson once confessed. Reflecting on the trip later, he declared, ‘Ill as I was, we went, and I did some of the best paintings I have ever done.’

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  • Utagawa Hiroshige Asakusa-Tanbo, Torinomachi-mode

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Asakusa-Tanbo, Torinomachi-mode (Asakusa Rice Fields During the Cock Festival), from the series Meisho Edo hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Famous Places of Edo). Colour woodcuts. Oban tate-e 14.8 x 9⅝ in (35.8 x 24.5 cm); 13⅝ x 9 in (34.6 x 22.9 cm)	 (2). Sold for $40,000 on 18 March 2014 at Christie’s in New York

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Asakusa-Tanbo, Torinomachi-mode (Asakusa Rice Fields During the Cock Festival), from the series Meisho Edo hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Famous Places of Edo). Colour woodcuts. Oban tate-e: 14.8 x 9⅝ in (35.8 x 24.5 cm); 13⅝ x 9 in (34.6 x 22.9 cm) (2). Sold for $40,000 on 18 March 2014 at Christie’s in New York

From the second-storey window of a brothel — a courtesan’s accoutrements are casually arranged in the foreground — a cat observes a busy procession crossing the Asakusa rice fields to the Torinomachi Festival. 

This print comes from Utagawa Hiroshige’s (1797-1858) final masterpiece, a series known as ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’, depicting celebrated landmarks and cultural festivals in the 19th-century city, which is now called Tokyo.

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  • Carl Vilhelm Holsøe The Artist’s Wife Sitting at a Window in a Sunlit Room

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (Danish, 1863-1935), The Artists Wife Sitting at a Window in a Sunlit Room. Oil on canvas. 32¼ x 35½  in (81.9 x 90.2  cm). Sold for $167,000 on 28 October 2015 at Christie’s in New York

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (Danish, 1863-1935), The Artist's Wife Sitting at a Window in a Sunlit Room. Oil on canvas. 32¼ x 35½ in (81.9 x 90.2 cm). Sold for $167,000 on 28 October 2015 at Christie’s in New York

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (1863-1935), like his contemporary Vilhelm Hammershøi, was known for his sparse, tranquil interiors redolent of introspection and timelessness. In contrast to Hammershøi, who often used a closed window to symbolically shut out the outside world, Holsøe presents an open door in this painting with a full view of the sunny garden, inviting the outside in.

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  • Vincent van Gogh Laboureur dans un champ

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Laboureur dans un champ, 1889. Oil on canvas. 19⅞ x 25½ in  (50.3 x 64.9 cm). Sold for $81,312,500 on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in New York

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Laboureur dans un champ, 1889. Oil on canvas. 19⅞ x 25½ in (50.3 x 64.9 cm). Sold for $81,312,500 on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in New York

For almost an entire year between 1889 and 1890, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) rose from his bed at St Paul’s Asylum near Arles in the south of France to gaze upon this view from the single window in his room. The artist began Laboureur dans un champ  in late August 1889 and finished it within days — a significant development, as he hadn’t picked up his brushes in six weeks following a devastating psychological episode.

‘Yesterday I started working again a little — a thing I see from my window,’ he explained in a letter to his brother Theo on 2 September. ‘Work distracts me infinitely better than anything else, and if I could once again really throw myself into it with all my energy that might possibly be the best remedy.’

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  • Edouard Vuillard Les rues de Paris, panneaux pour Henry Bernstein: Seconde série, La Place Vintimille

Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Les rues de Paris, panneaux pour Henry Bernstein Seconde série, La Place Vintimille. Peinture à la colle over charcoal on paper laid down on panel. 78¾ x 19⅝ in (200 x 49.6  cm). Sold for $3,852,500 on 8 May 2018 at Christie’s in New York

Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Les rues de Paris, panneaux pour Henry Bernstein: Seconde série, La Place Vintimille. Peinture à la colle over charcoal on paper laid down on panel. 78¾ x 19⅝ in (200 x 49.6 cm). Sold for $3,852,500 on 8 May 2018 at Christie’s in New York

From his fourth-floor apartment on the edge of Montmartre, Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) captured the lively activities of his neighbourhood in a series of four canvases that were commissioned by playwright Henry Bernstein. 

Two of these paintings are now in The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, while the other two were offered together in The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller auction on 8 May 2018 in New York. Vuillard would go on to paint this neighbourhood park from his apartment window many times in the following five years.