Chelsea - London's Most Artistic Borough

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If you ever find yourself wandering through Chelsea in London, take a closer look and try to spot the iconic blue plaques scattered throughout  rows and rows of houses. Chelsea is home to the Prints and Fine Art Head Office and, with the blue plaques commemorating the famous residents who used to live in those buildings, has a particularly rich history of artists and artistry. Although JMW Turner lived in Cheyne Walk he did so in relative privacy with hardly anyone knowing he was there until his death in 1851. Living near the Embankment, The Thames River offered an excellent subject for Turner’s marine paintings. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, founded in 1848, had members such as William Holman Hunt, John Collier and Dante Gabriel Rossetti who began to move into the area. Another group of Chelsea artists including James McNeil Whistler, who painted the iconic portrait of his mother in his Chelsea studio, met in a studio in the King’s Road in 1890 to discuss advancing their art with exhibitions and life classes by forming an exhibiting society, and so the iconic Chelsea Arts Club was founded. As professionalism among artists began to rise the demand for studio space rose with it and in the 60 years prior to The Great War over 1,300 domestic art studios were built in London. Chelsea’s cheaper rent, plentiful studio space and inspirational river, whilst still remaining close enough to the centre of London and the picture-purchasing public encouraged nineteenth century artists to move in in droves; in 1921, for example, the census revealed that Chelsea had the greatest concentration of male artists in all of London. 

With war artists and caricaturists, Modernists and Pre-Raphaelites, Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, Chelsea has seen more than its fair share of nineteenth and twentieth century artists. This artistic legacy has carried on through the ages, inspiring, creating and promoting modern and contemporary art and culture. Including the birth of the British Punk movement, the creation of the iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band album cover and the famous Saatchi Gallery in Duke of York’s Square, Chelsea is well-founded as, and continues to be, London’s most artistic borough.