I was lucky enough to know Andy Warhol and I imagined how I could make a painting of his studio that reflected my love of his work.
Despite his success, the painting activities of René Magritte were confined to a small corner of his living room in Belgium. Meanwhile, his paintings were always reaching out beyond the bounds of reality. He often painted an imaginary ocean outside this urban window. In "Personal Values" (1952), he filled the next door room with out-sized versions of his possessions.
I spent a day in Dali's Cadaques studio making this painting. After finishing the two walls, I went up to the roof and completed the landscape that had been partially visible through the two windows. The idea was inspired by an artwork in which Dali floated Velasquez's "Las Meninas" studio in the clouds.
This was the first painting that I made of Picasso's Studio in Cannes. While making this painting, I discovered that Picasso was using almost all the rooms on the ground floor of his art deco villa as studios. I then decided to join eight paintings together so that one could walk around the ground floor and see the hundreds of artworks that he was in the process of making in 1956.
Matisse liked to make paintings that contained a window into another world, and so I tried to echo that here. I drove along the coast visiting studios in the South of France. As I approached Nice, the sea changed to such a distinct color of blue, and I wanted that to be the focal point of this painting.
It is fun to vista Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico City. The whole house is very colorful, but sadly, this first studio of hers is now an empty shell. Even the window and door has been filled in. Nevertheless, I stood there with all the information that I had gathered over the years and began to imagine just how the room was when Frida was working there.
When Cubism became a success, Picasso moved down the hill from the Bateau Lavoir to a 19th century studio building. A century later, I stood in front of this place and tried to deduce which was Picasso's studio. I had a photo that he had taken of Sacre Coeur from his window. All of the top floor windows were curved like the one in the photo, but only the studio on the top right corner had a view of Sacre Coeur. So I went upstairs and knocked on the door, but there was no response. I started knocking on adjacent doors, but just then the owner arrived. She only let me in because she was curious to know if this was truly Picasso's apartment. I showed her all the evidence, and she let me make my painting.
In 2015, the Fleming Museum created an exhibition about 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon,' and they asked me to come and talk about Picasso. MOMA does not loan out 'Les Demoiselles.' So the Fleming has taken my painting of 'Picasso's Bateau Lavoir Studio' and projected it into the entire space of a room using computer technology. Visitors entering the exhibition find themselves in Picasso's studio at the moment when he had just finished his masterpiece. My painting contains all of the various influences that led to this breakthrough moment when Picasso became the preeminent painter in Paris. It was a thrilling experience, and I can imagine how museums in the future could use any of my studio paintings in a similar way. Visitors were able to pick up an iPad and point it towards any of the Demoiselles in order to see all of Picasso's sketches that led to the creation of that woman.
This little port on the south coast of France attracts tourism because it was here that Matisse and Derain spent their summers painting. After 1907, Matisse would rent a house in the Port which is visible through the window. However, in 1905, he took a photo through this window from a studio where he was inventing Fauvism. 100 years later, I asked the old men playing boules on the beach where they thought that old photo was taken. They agreed that the only building with the windows above the doors was right behind us. The little tree in my painting is now huge, and the table and chairs on the beach are situated where there is now a bustling restaurant. I had located his Fauvist studio. Amazingly, the current occupants were unaware that Matisse had been here.
Cezanne's studio in Aix-en-Provence is now a museum. Tours go through it every 20 minutes, but they allowed me to sit at his little desk to make a sketch. The tour guide kept repeating how nothing had changed since Cezanne's death, but I suddenly realized that all the studio furniture was out of place. There is a photo of Cezanne sitting in front of this canvas of "The Large Bathers" (1895-1906) with the stove behind it, but what may have confused the museum staff is that the stove has been moved. I located the place where it used to be, and sure enough, there was a line of green and blue paint across the floor boards where the easel had been.
Monet's first studio at Giverny was in his house, and it remains mostly intact. Unfortunately, the view of the garden outside was obscured by the construction of a larger outdoor studio where he created the "Water Lilies" series.
Tahiti was not the Garden of Eden that Gauguin had hoped for. He was desperately poor and painted some of his masterpieces on burlap sacks. He even had to take a job at the Post Office. At the end of his life, he moved to the Marquesas Islands where he found a more perfect environment for creating his incredible paintings.