The Museums and Galleries History Group’s recent symposium at the Wallace Collection asked what makes a good house museum. What better way to investigate than to visit a few? Below is a list of some of the most interesting in the UK, Europe and the USA, selected by Katy Barrett.
The neoclassical architect’s former home now houses many of his models and drawings, as well as his personal collection of paintings, drawings and assorted antiquities. The museum runs an inventive exhibition programme and is currently under the directorship of Abraham Thomas.
Ernö Goldfinger designed 2 Willow Road as his family home, but construction of the architect’s block in Hampstead met vocal opposition from the influential Henry Brooke in 1937. It went ahead, and is now protected by the National Trust.
Most house museums have become time capsules of sorts but very few were actually built as one. Severs (1948–1999) turned his terraced house on London’s Folgate Street into a ‘still-life drama’ that dramatically recreates the home of a Huguenot silk weaver.
Collector and curator Jim Ede lived at Kettle’s Yard from 1958 to 1973, but always conceived of the house as ‘a living place…where young people could be at home unhampered by the greater austerity of the museum or public art gallery.’ His impressive collection of modern British and European art is meticulously arranged within the domestic space, without labels or distractions.
Henry Moore moved to Perry Green in 1941 after his London home was damaged in the Blitz. His house, Hoglands, and the surrounding grounds, are now a museum and sculpture garden overseen by the Henry Moore Foundation.
Auguste Rodin bequeathed his sculptures, models and casting rights to France in 1916, on the condition that the state set up a public museum of his work. His former atelier at the Hôtel Biron in Paris is now the site of the Rodin Museum, and many of his most famous sculptures take pride of place in the grounds.
Édouard André (1833–1894) and the society painter Nélie Jacquemart (1841–1912) were great art patrons, and created this lavish Parisian mansion to house their collection of Old Master works. The museum opened to the public 1913.
Some of Claude Monet’s most recognisable, and best loved, paintings were created here. The famous Impressionist settled in Giverny in 1883, and dedicated himself to painting the garden’s riot of colourful flowers, hovering waterlilies, scattered light and the famous Japanese bridge.
Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) amassed an extraordinary collection of Old Master paintings, sculpture and decorative arts over his lifetime. The building itself is equally precious: it is one of only a few surviving Gilded Age mansions in the area.
The patron, collector and philanthropist Isabella Stewart Gardner’s house and garden were conceived as a complementary whole. Opened in 1903, it is home to some 2,500 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, rare books and decorative arts.
Houses as museums…museums as houses (Katy Barrett)