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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.’
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.