Greenhill’s Rents, London, EC1. Photo © Roger Dean 2010. Painting © Peter Paul Rubens 1609.
London at the End of the Century: A Book of Gossip – Arthur William a Beckett, 1900:
Two Sundays in April a large number of people (they are called smart in the Society journals) spend their time in visiting Chelsea and St. John’s Wood in search of the pearls of the studios. A great many of them possibly know as little about art as anything else, and the vast majority probably make the customary rounds because it is the thing to do. A select few, no doubt, are actuated by nobler motives. These genuine lovers of pictures put in an appearance to see their favourites’ work before the canvases are annexed by Burlington House and the New Gallery. After all, the best place of inspection for a painting is the studio. When it is resting on its easel all its beauties can be fully recognised, especially should its author be in attendance. It is placed in the best light, and incongruous neighbours are warned off. No doubt the Hanging Committee of the Royal Academy and the Managing Directors of the New Gallery do their best to secure appropriate surroundings to all the works entrusted to their care; still accidents will happen. If one painting is killed by another, and a third is rendered ridiculous by the presence of a fourth, the excuse must be that space is limited, and bad hanging (from an artist’s point of view) is better than no hanging at all. So given that the best place in which to see a picture is its native studio, and an excuse is found for the crowds who congregate in Chelsea and the Regent Park during the April Sundays.
[ More than twenty of Rubens works can be seen for free, every day at the National Gallery.R.D.]