Once inspired by a destination artists return over and over again — some even take up permanent residence — to paint, write and capture the natural beauty and human elements that make their soul sing. Here are five artist-inspired destinations in the US that will make you feel like you stepped into a work of art: Georgia O’Keefe’s New Mexico; Ernest Hemingway’s Key West; Jackson Pollock’s East Hamptons; Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond and Andrew Wyeth’s Chadds Ford.
The Artist: Georgia O’Keeffe, Abiquiu, New Mexico
The story goes that American modernist Georgia O’Keefe — renowned for her flower-and-desert scapes — fell instantly and deeply in love with New Mexico. After making her first trip in 1929, she reportedly felt one with the light, sky, and stark desert terrain. When her husband (Alfred Stieglitz) died in 1949, O’Keefe made Abiquiu New Mexico her permanent home.
To better understand the artist and her work, step inside Georgia O’Keefe’s historic adobe home and studio in Abiquiu. The house, alone, is said to have inspired more than two dozen paintings — including one of the cottonwood trees growing below her studio, which she painted more than 24 times. Also stop by the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, where the namesake museum features nearly 150 paintings, hundreds of works on paper (pencil and charcoal drawings, pastels, and watercolors), personal items including rocks and bones she collected in the desert, and an archive of personal photographs.
Best Hotel Near Abiquiu
Just an hour from Abiqui, Bishop’s Lodge borders Santa Fe National Forest and is just minutes from ‘downtown.’ Rooms and suites are decorated in the rich textures and subtle colors of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and feature works by talented local artisans; some have kiva fireplaces, private terraces and in true Southwest style, come with a crystal on your nightstand to bring on the positive vibes.
The Artist: Ernest Hemingway, Key West, Florida
Ernest Hemingway is synonymous with Key West. It was here, in 1929, he penned ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and a handful of other novels including ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.’ However, the book forever connecting Hemingway and Key West was ‘To Have and Have Not’, a 1937 novel telling the story of Harry Morgan, a fishing boat captain from Key West, who during the Great Depression, resorts to running contraband between Florida and Cuba. The novel was eventually adapted to the silver screen starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. To Key West locals, however, Hemingway was known simply as “Papa” and when not writing could be found deep-sea fishing or drinking with friends at Sloppy Joe’s Bar.
Although Hemingway left Key West in 1939, his house (907 Whitehead Street) was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1968. Today The Hemingway House and Museum are open daily for tours. Explore the house, gardens, and writing studio, complete with the author’s manual typewriter. Also, enjoy the cats. The estate is home to approximately 60 polydactyl (six- and seven-toed) cats, Hemingway was once given a white six-toed cat he called “Snow White,” and it is believed the felines roaming the grounds (inside and out) are descendants.
Best Hotel in Key West
For a slice of old Key West, and a peaceful, private, and yes, pretty, alternative to Duval Street, check into The Gardens Hotel, an upscale, soothing oasis with a lovely pool and elegant rooms. Both guest rooms and cottages (there are five) come with Italian linens and duvets, marble baths, and private verandahs. Furniture is Bahamian plantation style — in yew and mahogany — and draped in soft tropical Caribbean colors.
The Artist(s): Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, East Hampton, New York
The life and love affair of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner is legendary in the Hamptons. The newlywed artists moved from New York City to the Hamptons in 1945, with the help of a $5000 home-loan from famed art collector Peggy Guggenheim. It was here, in the small house (circa 1879) and most specifically the barn studio (originally built to house fishing equipment) that Pollock completed his most important works —by doing away with his traditional upright easel and splattering paint on canvases on the floor to create the abstract imagery that made him famous. Both reportedly liked the idyll setting, far from the hustle of the city, and the calm it exuded.
While there are no original works on display, the Pollock-Krasner House gives an accurate glimpse into the couple’s modest lifestyle and work environment. The top floor of the house has a bedroom, guestroom, and small room that once served as Pollock’s studio, while Krasner’s workspace is noted on the main floor. The barn studio is, not surprisingly, the highlight of the tour — it is here Pollock created his large-format floor-splattering works including ‘Autumn Rhythm’ and ‘Blue Poles’.
Best Hotel in the Hamptons
For a slice of the calm and tranquility, Pollock and Krasner originally felt in leaving the city so many decades ago, check into the tranquil, 13-room Shou Sugi Ban House, surrounded by evergreens and tall lush seagrasses. A Japanese-inspired destination spa, the overnight guest rooms are all about clean lines and wabi-sabi design. Think neutral color palette, gas fireplaces, private garden patios, organic bedding, and deep soaking tubs. Not to mention the cocooning spa treatments offered.
The Artist: Henry David Thoreau, Concord Massachusetts
Long before conscious travel was a thing, writer Henry David Thoreau was on it. The famous writer went to the woods, outside Boston, to live in a 150-foot cabin on his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson’s property. “I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” Thoreau famously wrote. He spent two years, two months, and two days in his cabin at Walden Pond and in 1854 published his reflections on life in the woods in the book, ‘Walden Pond.’
Although the original cabin is no longer intact, the 1.7-mile ‘Pond Path’ around Walden Pond goes by the original site. Bring a stone from your own home and add it to the cairn started by Mary Newbury Adams in 1872. To see a replica of Thoreau’s original digs, check behind the bookstore — there’s a statue of Thoreau, and the cabin is open for touring.
Best Hotel Near Concord, Massachusetts
Polar opposite to a solitary stay in the woods, The Newbury Boston, located in the city’s back bay area, features original artwork by illustrator Veronica Lawlor, custom-designed furnishings by acclaimed interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud, and loads of beautifully handcrafted woods and marble touches. There is also a literary connection. Nextdoor to the boutique hotel’s iconic Street Bar —serving classic cocktails and New England breakfast classics like lobster benedict and blueberry pancakes —the Library is an intimate salon space of great literary reads curated by the Boston Public Library.
Artist: Andrew Wyeth, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Born in Chadds Ford, PA, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia, realist painter Andrew Wyeth was inspired by the land and people here (as well as in Maine where he had a summer home). His most famous painting, ‘Christina’s World” which currently hangs in NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, depicts a woman in a pale pink dress dragging herself through a field of brown grass toward a foreboding farmhouse. In 1940, Wyeth purchased a schoolhouse not far from his childhood home which he used as a studio until his death, in 2009 (at age 91). The studio, throughout his life, was a very personal space and the artist protected his privacy. Two signs on the front door of the studio read: “I’m Working So Please Do Not Disturb” and “I do not sign autographs.”
Wyeth’s painting studio remains much as it did before the artist’s death. Watercolor and tempera material give visitors a sense of his craft; the building still houses Wyeth’s extensive art library and the tall, paned windows create details on the landscape that speak to the way Wyeth constructed some of his compositions. For greater insight, tour with a trained guide. Also, visit the Brandywine River Museum of Art to see the Andrew Wyeth Gallery, and take a tour of the nearby Kuerner Farm — Wyeth’s inspiration for a major body of his work created between 1933 and 2009.
Best Hotel in Chadds Ford
The small, newly renovated Fairville Inn, offers close proximity to the Wyeth house and studio, as well as stylish European-inspired interiors. Newly renovated, rooms reflect the aesthetic of their (also newish) owner, Xio — a former wedding florist and designer. Rooms offer a soothing blend of cream, beige, and whites, dream chandeliers dripping from the ceiling, romantic gas fireplaces, and memorable, seasonal breakfasts of cheese egg souffle, and specialty pancakes. Private dinners for four or more can also be arranged.