The area around the SW corner of Holland Park was an artists colony from the 1860s. The Prinseps, who leased Little Holland House, an old house in the park, entertained many of the artists of the day and provided a place for artists to meet wealthy clients. The son, Val Prinsep (1838-1904), a Pre-Raphaelite painter and his friend Frederic (later Lord) Leighton both had houses with large workroom-studios built for them in the area. Such houses can be spotted by their large north-facing windows which ensure an even light. Other artists also had houses built nearby, some modest but others very grand in scale.
18 Melbury Road
William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), one of the most important Pre-Raphaelite painters, lived here and there is a blue plaque to mark his residence. He is famous for the painting The Light of the World which is in St Pauls Cathedral.
This house was built in 1876 for Sir Samuel Luke Fildes (1843-1927), whose initials can be seen on the weathervane. It was designed by one of the leading late Victorian architects, Richard Norman Shaw, in the revivalist Queen Anne style. It had a huge studio on the first floor in which Edward VII had his portrait painted; he called it the finest room in Europe. Luke Fildes most famous pictures include The Casual Ward and The Doctor. He also illustrated The Mystery of Edwin Drood for Charles Dickens.
William Burges (1827-81), the architect of Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch for the Marquess of Bute, designed this house for himself in 1875-81. He decorated all the rooms magnificently with carvings and paintings. He painted his bedroom ceiling blue so he could imagine himself beneath the sea. In contrast to the artists houses, this has many stained glass windows. This is because an architect, although spending a long time drawing, is not observing from nature and therefore does not need the clear natural light necessary in an artists studio.
This grand house of 1876 was by the same architect as number 31 and is in a similar style. It was designed for a very successful history painter, Marcus Stone (1840-1921), who also illustrated works by Charles Dickens. The front door has a richly carved brick surround. The huge windows gave light to his studio and the thin windows on the ground floor enabled large paintings to be removed from the building.
2 & 4 Melbury Road
The Thornycrofts, who lived here, were all sculptors and painters, the most famous of whom was the sculptor, Sir William Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1925). The house is very plain and was probably quite cheap to build.
20-30 Holland Park Road
These houses look like stables, because of the arch which is big enough for a coach to go through. They were built to provide homes for painters on the ground floor and large studios on the first floor. The studio windows at the rear can be seen through the first floor windows. In number 20 lived the Punch cartoonist Phil May (1864-1903).
Val Prinseps house was begun in 1865-6 but has been extended three times, giving it a confusing appearance. The front elevation has a wide variety of windows, including the inset angled bay window on the left. The architect was Philip Webb, who also designed the Red House in Bexley for his friend, William Morris.
Built for Frederic Leighton (1830-96), one of the leading painters of the day, who became President of the Royal Academy. The original architect, George Aitchison, made a number of additions to the building including the Arab Hall in 1877-9. The huge window, which let daylight into the studio, is visible from the garden. The adjacent Perrin Galleries, designed by Halsey Ricardo, were opened in 1929.
Originally the farmhouse of the Holland Park estate, this was altered in 1892-3 to make a house and studio for the portrait painter, Sir James Jebusah Shannon (1862-1923). The house is built to look like a much older Jacobean house with Dutch gables and, with its large tree-filled garden, gives the impression of a country house. After Shannons death the house was the home of Punch cartoonist John Bernard Partridge (1861-1945).