24 Camden Square


In J. P. Mayall’s photograph, Samuel Cousins is portrayed in the sitting room of his house at 24 Camden Square. The engraver lived in this house for thirty years with his sister, Susan. According to one of his biographers, Alfred Whitman, Cousins did work in his house, but we know little about his studio.[1]

Camden Town was not among the most notable artistic neighborhoods of London, like Chelsea or St. John’s Wood. This area, with cheaper properties, attracted less prominent artists and especially engravers.[2] In this period, engravers found themselves in the shadow of the painters whose work they reproduced. In fact, Samuel Cousins’s election to the rank of Royal Academician in 1855 was exceptional and testified to his great talent and success.[3] When, in 1857, after changing many residences, Cousins, a freshly made Royal Academician, settled in Camden Town, he was likely seeking the company of his fellow engravers, such as Frank Holl’s father, with whom he was close.[4] Such personal connections frequently influenced Victorian artists’ choices of residences.[5]  

The neighborhood presented enough of an attraction for artists that between 1865 and 1869 William Roberts, a builder, erected there Camden Studios— nine workshops designed for use by artists. Painters and sculptors, among them the sculptor Henry Wayte Bursill, were his tenants. However, in the 1870s, artists’ and developers’ interest in the neighborhood declined.[6] In the 1880s successful artists who were sensitive to their social status sought to leave Camden Town. Frank Holl was one of them.[7] In the late 1890s, the neighborhood became popular among the young generation of artists precisely because it was unlike the more famous and wealthy artistic communities of London.[8] Cousins lived in this neighborhood until his death in 1887.

Ekaterina Koposova

[1] Alfred Whitman, Samuel Cousins (London: George Bell & Sons, 1904), 23.

[2] Barbara Bryant, “The Private and Public Life of Frank Holl: The Journey from Camden Town to the Hampstead and Surrey,” in Frank Holl: Emerging from Shadows, ed. Mark Bills (London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2013), 55; Giles Walkley, “Decadent St John’s Wood: Grove End Road,” in Artists’ Houses in London 1764–1914 (Aldershot, Hants, England; Brookfield, VT: Scolar Press, 1994), 31.

[3] Whitman, Cousins, 22.

[4] Bryant, “Private and Public Life of Frank Holl,” 55.

[5] Joseph Lamb, “Symbols of Success in Suburbia: The Establishment of Artists’ Communities in Late Victorian London,” in Victorian Urban Settings: Essays on the Nineteenth-Century City and Its Contexts, ed. Debra N. Mancoff and D. J. Trela (New York: Garland Pub., 1996), 65-67.

[6] Walkley, “Decadent St John’s Wood,” 140-41.

[7] Bryant, “Private and Public Life of Frank Holl,” 60.

[8] Lamb, “Symbols of Success in Suburbia,” 60.