The studio appears to have been specially-constructed c1895 for Olsson’s school of marine painting, and it then included Studios 5, 6 and 7 as a single space, giving a total floor area of c200 sq m and it was over 7.5m high. This space was well-lit, with two large windows facing the beach, three smaller windows overlooking the courtyard, one window in the south wall, and a huge east-facing skylight.
Within a few years, the studio was subdivided into the current arrangement of Studios 5, 6, and 7. Studio 5 did not retain a beach view, but the large skylight meant that it is very well lit from above, and an ideal painting and exhibition space. It was used in the 1920s and 1930s as a gallery for the St Ives Society of Artists Show Days, later also adding Studio 4, to which is was connected by a large doorway, but since blocked in. The wall finish of white-painted hessian overlaid with battens, still present today, probably dates from this use as exhibition space.
However the studio is now best known as the one used for 50 years by two of the most influential painters of their generation, firstly Ben Nicholson, followed by Patrick Heron, and the studio still retains intriguing glimpses of their occupation through the graffiti still visible on its walls. At first glance the studio appears little changed from the renovations, although this belies the fact that major structural and other interventions have been carried out.
The main access is from the ramp down to the cellars – there are steps at the top of the ramp – but an important improvement has been the addition of a secret door at the rear of the studio, allowing level access through the main building entrance (Studio 12 also known as Moffat Lindner Room), taking the lift down one level, and then along the external walkway.
Previous occupants include: Julius Olsson, Louis Grier, Herbert Draper, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Algernon Talmage, Alfred Hartley, St Ives Society of Artists, Borlase Smart, Ben Nicholson, Patrick Heron, Partou Zia, Ged Quinn, Kerstin Kartscher, Nick Evans, Katy Moran, Linder Sterling, Lucy Stein, Danny Fox, Tamara Henderson, Veronica Ryan and Mattea Perrotta, Simon Williams, Mike Newton, Lubaina Himid, Tanoa Sasraku