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Required Reading: ‘Still Lives: In the Homes of Artists, Great and Unsung,’ by Leslie Williamson


A must read for fans of California photographer Leslie Williamson: Still Lives In the Homes of Artists, Great and Unsung. Leslie’s new book was inspired by her “love of visiting artists’ homes and studios and witnessing the creative through line that invariably runs from their artwork to the spaces they inhabit and create in,” as she says.

When our book arrived, we immediately gravitated toward the house of Derek Jarman, the celebrated (and gone too soon) filmmaker, painter, Tilda Swinton collaborator, and gay rights activist. The cottage is located in Dungeness, on the southern tip of Kent, England. We were familiar with Jarman’s famous garden (see Garden Visit: Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage at Dungeness), but not the interiors, which were never formally photographed.

“The fact that I was even allowed inside Jarman’s home took me by surprise,” Leslie says. “A friend had told me about his famous garden, and I sought it out online. Whereas images of the garden were plentiful, images of the interior were few and left me curious. Luckily, a friend connected me with Jarman’s great friend Keith Collins, the inheritor of the cottage, and I was in,” Leslie says.

N.B.: Leslie recently launched a Still Lives Portal, an online accompaniment to the book that features a “Lost Chapter,” new photo essays, musings, archival images, and a limited edition print shop.

Join us for a tour:

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Above: Jarman bought the small tarred timber cottage, which was originally a Victorian fisherman’s hut, in 1986. “The cottage sits at the water’s edge on the flattest of flat land, covered not by sand, but small stones I quickly learned are called ‘shingle.’ The harsh winds and sun make it the closest thing England has to a desert,” Leslie says.
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Above: Jarman’s gardening tools still occupy the entryway. “Prospect Cottage is a simple five-room fisherman’s cabin, with a central hallway ending in a kitchen at the back.,” Leslie says. ‘The four main rooms—living room, study, painting room, and bedroom—all feed off the main hallway.”
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Above: The sunroom looks out over the windswept environs and the garden.
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Above: “Most of. the decor consists of driftwood and strings of hag stones—small stones with a hole naturally worn through them, which are believed to have protective powers,” Leslie says
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Above:  “Jarman’s bedroom lies across the hall, simply furnished with a heavy dark wood bed and chair and a small table in front of the window,” Leslie says.
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Above: The medieval hand-carved wood chest is topped with “a variety of small assemblages made from detritus from the land,” Leslie says, “grouped around a silvered pot full of dried seed heads of Crambe maritima from the garden. A painting of Madonna and Child that Jarman bought from a Russian power station worker in Chernobyl hangs above it all.”
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Above: Still Lives: In the Home of Artists, Great and Unsung is available from Bookshop for $69.

N.B.: After 20 years of maintaining Prospect Cottage, Keith Collins died in 2018; the Art Fund in the UK successfully raised funds to endow a “permanently funded program to conserve and maintain the building, its contents, and its garden for the future.”

For more Leslie Williamson works:

Required Reading: Handcrafted Modern

Required Reading: Modern Originals: At Home with Midcentury European Designers

Required Reading: Interior Portraits


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