Home / articles / Interiors in Art

Interiors in Art

‘A Good Book’ by Paul Fischer

I don’t think it will come as any surprise that I love paintings of interiors. Indeed, I have shown on a previous post some of the lovely interior illustrations I have in a portfolio by the architect R Goulburn Lovell,  such as … and …

 and …

just three illustrations from the (incomplete) portfolio of 22 such lovely illustrations which I inherited from my mother.

I also have two books which chronicle pictures of interiors …

and …

I confess I have not read them from cover. They are quite weighty books but they have the most superb illustrations and it is those illustrations that capture my imagination.  I particularly love the Dutch interior paintings (particularly Vermeer) and in Imagined Interiors I like Pieter de Hooch’s  Portrait of a family playing music (1663) (above).   It isn’t so much the family in the foreground that has captured my attention.  No, it’s the grandmother or the nanny in the background with the two little children and the vista to the window beyond and, a after that, courtyard.  And just look at the magnificent chequer-board floor and the heavy, carved cabinet on the right.  The Dutch masters were particularly good at painting materials, not only silks and satins, but also the wools of a rug or tapestry, such as the draped shawl over the table on which the woman in the foreground rests her arm.

And then, a little over a century later, another family enjoying a musical soiree, this time Johann Joseph Zoffany’s George, 3rd Earl Cowper with the Family of Charles of Gore (1775).  I love to see not only the furnishings of this Georgian room, but also the fashions of the day.  The book says, “In Zoffany’s [painting] the aesthetic qualities of the interior space correspond to the riches of the Gore family’s attire.”  (Opinions differ as to whether ‘real’ interiors or fictitious backdrops were portrayed in such portraits – for example, it is unlikely that a wall, as depicted here, would ‘dissolve’ quite in this way into an exterior scene.  But a lovely interior painting nonetheless.)

Next, (below) from At Home, The Domestic Interior in Art, I just love this interior by Adolf Henirich-Hansen entitled A Woman Reading in an Interior (1918), which continues both the style and the love of interiors’ paintings by the Dutch and Scandinavians.

You could warm your hands by that range, could you not? and I love the little footstool by the chair, and oh, look at all the gorgeous blue and white china and the highly polished copper pans, and even the tiles behind and beneath the range.  But even with all the items of a wonderfully appointed kitchen, the eyes are drawn toward the woman reading, even though she is half-hidden through the doorway.  No detail has been spared and perhaps we can learn something of the way of life then, even with the copper jamming pan on the highest shelf as perhaps it is only brought down once a year during the jam-making season?

Next (below), an interior totally different from the one above, which is filled with so many artefacts that the woman reading almost seems incidental to the scene.  Here (below) in Danish artist Carl Holsoe’s, The Artist’s Home at Lyngby (at the end of the 19th century) the emphasis is on light rather than people, on a room sparsely furnished and yet one which is welcoming.

All this is bringing me to a couple of postcards which I’ve had for more years than I can remember.  They were given away with Period House magazine, sadly a title no longer on the newsagent’s shelf.  They are by Patrick William Adam (1854-1930), and are entitled The Green Tablecloth and Interior, Gribdae.

I have been using them as bookmarks, and I never tire of seeing them. So much so that I’ve looked online for reproductions of this artist’s work and, as we speak, a print is winging its way to me.  I hope it will be as attractive as these paintings above, and that the quality of the reproduction merits my having it mounted and framed so I might hang it in the sitting room, our bedroom, bed sitting room, or kitchen.

I wonder what kinds of pictures you have on your walls?  Prints of the old masters?  Flower paintings from the 1950s?  Photographs of the family?  Framed embroideries or samplers?  A landscape or seascape can often work wonders, especially in a small room, carrying the ‘view’ beyond the actual wall on which it is hung.  Or perhaps you prefer plain walls, finding them more restful?

Until next time.


About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

Check Also


People have often asked me who has been most influential in English interior design, both on …


  1. Hi Margaret,
    Are you familiar with the paintings by Michael John Hunt?
    I first saw his work at an Antiques and Fine Art fair held at Chester Racecourse in 2010. We’d had a good wander around the ground floor, made a mental list of “when we win the lottery” items, walked up to the first floor and I saw a painting that absolutely took my breath away!
    I loved everything about the painting instantly, it’s a view from inside a room, looking out toward the garden and I felt that I was in that room. I could feel the warm summer air coming in through the open door, smell the flowers outside, even hear the cat purring as it lay basking in the sunlight.
    It was a lot of money, and I questioned whether I could justify spending that amount, for all of about ten seconds!
    I more or less wiped my savings out to buy it, but it hangs in an alcove in the living room and I still love it as much as at the first glance!
    He paints interiors beautifully, but I particularly like the way his pictures tempt you to wander out into the garden!
    There’s another painting of his that I really want, ‘A Gentle Breeze’, but as it’s priced at £18000, I probably won’t be getting it. Well, maybe after a lottery win, although as we don’t play the lottery, that’s a tad unlikely!
    Have a glance at his work, I feel sure you’ll like it!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Col. I had to have a look at his paintings right away. Wow! No wonder you would like to own one of those, they are wonderful, just the kind of paintings I love. However, £18K is quite a lot of £s to part with! Maybe if we win the Lottery! And I have to buy a ticket in order to win we’d have to buy a ticket! I must look for the painting you mention, A Gentle Breeze. But you have grasped the kind of paintings I love, interiors or looking into interiors or out from them.

  2. Margaret, you might enjoy one of my favorite books: Daily Life in Art (Beatrice Fontanel) — full of reproductions of paintings from all eras. It’s so much fun, and the paintings are very well-chosen for these types of details.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Beth, I will look that one up, it sounds just my cup of tea!
      A few minutes later … have now ordered this, a good 2nd hand copy for pence not pounds, so looking forward to seeing this, Beth, thank you for telling me about it.

  3. Thank you for all of those beautiful pictures.

    Our art collection doesn’t really follow any theme – all of the art on our walls belonged to hubbie when I met him. I was instrumental, however, in getting him to hang them when I moved in as he’d simply left them stacked and leaning the wall ! I have several postcards and cards which are framed and sit on bookshelves, etc. Again, no particular theme, just colours / patterns which have caught my eye. I have friends who have filled their home with beautiful artworks – including some originals – and I always feel that I’m in a grown ups house with all of their works 🙂

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the pictures, Lara – there are so many in the books it was difficult to know which to choose. I love visiting people’s homes and seeing what they display on their walls. A friend has lots of lovely old mirrors, and that is lovely as they reflect light. I also have lots of postcards and often use them as bookmarks.

  4. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Some lovely pictures here, Margaret. You are very passionate about decor and interiors – did you ever think of studying interior design, or perhaps working in the business?
    On my walls: in the kitchen I have embossed tile pictures. I’m not sure how else to describe them. Maybe I will do a post sometime (with pictures, of course). In the sitting room I have one wall with family photographs. On another is a dark wood carved picture/tray which my mother had made in Japan in 1953. There is also a plain stone limited edition, sculpted Madonna plate bought in The Vatican. My husband doesn’t like it at all but I like it a lot. The compromise is that it is on the back wall which we never sit facing.
    I don’t have a lot else on the walls, though I am having a think about the bedroom which we plan to decorate. I’ve bought the bedding but still haven’t got around to choosing the wallpaper yet. I am in no way minimalist but over the past few years have become plainer in my interior design tastes.
    Back in the eighties as a young mum, my house style was heavily influenced by Laura Ashley.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Your wall art sounds lovely, Eloise, and I especially like the idea of the carved picture/tray from Japan. I have never put up many family photos, but we do have some now of Harrison, just one of Chris and our lads when they were young and one of Chris and myself (one we both love, it’s such a happy photo) and one of me, a professional one that was taken for a magazine feature and Chris liked it so much he wanted to have it framed.
      Strangely enough, I never bought anything from Laura Ashley in the 1980s, a time when people were putting frills on everything, and wallpaper ‘dado rails’ around their sitting rooms, with flowers above and stripes below. Sorry, I did buy something. A bag of offcuts for patchwork. They never wasted anything and off cuts of their materials were bagged up for people to make patchwork, although I never did make patchwork. I turned them into a tablecloth, not very successfully, I might add.
      Best of luck finding the ‘right’ wallpaper for your bedroom.
      As for taking up interior design as a career, I never even knew what that was as a young person, but yes, it’s something I’d have enjoyed I think.

  5. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Oh my goodness, I have just looked at The Hunt Gallery online. How ever does someone paint something that looks so like a photograph? They are amazing. I can’t believe how perfectly the artist portrays the light coming through the window in ‘ A gentle breeze’; it is quite incredible. I do love the way your posts take me off in new directions!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      What delights me, Eloise, is that readers are contributing their thoughts and experiences, so that we can share knowledge. I’d not heard of the artist, Hunt, either. There is another figurative artist whose work I have seen, he does portraits of people in their homes, or just their rooms, but his name escapes me, and like Hunt, they are almost photographic in their quality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *