The Avenue

North view of The Avenue

North view of The Avenue, 76 Fulham Road, South Kensington. Developed by Charles Freake from 1869 onwards.

The sculpture studio of Joseph Edgar Boehm was located on Sydney Close, 76 Fulham Road, South Kensington. It was one of the twenty assorted studios known collectively as “The Avenue”; Boehm’s illustrious neighbors there included Sir Edward John Poynter R.A., Sir Alfred Gilbert R.A., Elizabeth Thompson, Charles Edward Hallé, and John Singer Sargent R.A. The Avenue had been constructed by Boehm's friend, the architect and builder Sir Charles James Freake (1814-1884), “credited with the first purpose-built, flatted studios,” for the sculptor Carlo Marochetti (1805–1867). Previously, Freake had built three-story houses for artists in Cromwell Place, but recognizing the promising market for “nonresidential studios for journeyman artists,” decided to convert his estate workshops into simple studios for artists and sculptors.[1] Upon Marochetti's death in 1867, the gigantic studio and foundry that made up The Avenue was subdivided by Freake, and Boehm, who had previously had a studio at 13 Sumner Place, was one of the first three artists to occupy one of the units. His studio actually comprised five rooms, one of them dedicated exclusively to royal commissions.[2]

While Boehm worked at 76 Fulham Road, he lived with his wife Frances (Fanny) Louisa Boteler (1837–1890) and their four children first at 34 Euston Square and later (from 1873) at 25 Wetherby Gardens, Kensington. In addition, the Boehms owned a country retreat, a three-story, five-bedroom house called Bent's Brook in Holmwood, Surrey, an easy journey by train from London Victoria. Designed by the architect Robert W. Edis, the red brick house was crowned with a white wooden cupola and adorned with terracotta panels designed by Boehm himself. [3]

On December 12, 1890, just four months after the death of his wife, Boehm died suddenly at The Avenue. A Pall Mall Gazette article published on December 26 described the studio as “quaint and picturesque . . . behind the door on which a very old and weather-beaten little signboard told that this was the ‘workshop’ of Mr. Boehm.”[4] Before Boehm’s funeral in St. Paul's Cathedral, attended by members of the Royal Academy and the royal family (including the queen), his coffin was placed “in the room where he died in his studio, surrounded by many examples of his art.”[5] Afterward, amid rumors of his affair with Princess Louise, who was with Boehm when he died, nearly all his personal papers were destroyed.

Albertine Lee
 

[1] Giles Walkley, “Establishment Kensington: Melbury Road,” in Artists’ Houses in London 1764-1914 (Aldershot, Hants, England; Brookfield, VT: Scolar Press, 1994), 238-41.

[2] Mark Stoker, Royalist and Realist: The Life and Work of Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (New York and London: Garland, 1988), 25. Boehm's studio at The Avenue actually consisted of nos. 2, 4, 14, and 15. His previous studios had included 34 Onslow Square (1871) and 78 Cornwall Gardens, Chelsea (1881).

[3] “Sir (Joseph) Edgar Boehm Bart, RA,” Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain & Ireland 1851-1951, accessed November 16, 2016, sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib2_1213799161; Maurice B. Adams, "Bent's Brook," Artists' Homes (London, 1883), no. XIV. Boehm's home address remains something of a mystery: Mapping the Practice has him at 34 Euston Square from 1862 to 1891, but according to Mark Stocker, Wetherby Gardens was his final London residence (Royalist and Realist, 328, n. 67).

[4] “Sir Edgar Boehm,” Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), December 13, 1890, 4, British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[5] Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), issue 8034 (December 18, 1890), British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. 

Avenue Studios, London

Avenus Studios (formerly The Avenue), Chelsea, London

Note:

The studios in Sydney Close, behind the shops on Fulham Road, continued to be used for their original purpose into the 1980s, when they began to be too valuable for working artists to afford. A 1981article in the Connoisseur accurately predicted that the unique "home and working environment . . . within a sympathetic community" would not survive much longer and, indeed, though Avenue Studios still stands, the studios themselves have largely been converted into luxury flats. Meredith Etherington-Smith, "Avenue Studios: Contemporary Artists Keep the Victorian Studio Tradition Alive," Connoisseur 207 (July 1981): 211–14.
 
LM