At Joseph Harker’s Paint Studios
In 1905, Joseph Harker (1855–1927) the pre-eminent scenic artist of his age – celebrated for his work for Henry Irving’s company at the Lyceum – built paint studios in Walworth for his own use and to his own specification. Remarkably, these studios survive with all the essential fixtures in place just as Harker knew them. If the name ‘Joseph Harker’ sounds familiar, it is because Henry Irving’s manager Bram Stoker immortalised him by naming a character - Jonathan Harker – in his novel ‘Dracula’ in honour of his friend the scene painter
These days, the ground floor is occupied by the trade counter for Flints Theatrical Chandlers, stocking paints, brushes and all the paraphernalia required for the scenic arts, but Joseph Harker would only have to climb the old staircase with its close-set treads to the mezzanine above and roll his sleeves up to set to work upon the paint frames again.
Grade II listed, this is a building which does not declare itself from the outside. You have to enter and explore the distinctive nature of the single, tall narrow space with its the particular fixtures and fittings to understand its unique historical importance – which makes it all the more disappointing that last month Southwark Council granted permission for the studios to be carved up and redeveloped for luxury flats.
Joseph Harker’s signature with those of his family and colleagues
Scenic cloths were painted in natural light
The air vent at the top right is opened or closed by a sliding shutter
Frames were hung forward from the wall at the top to tilt them and prevent drips falling onto the cloth
One of several winches for winding cloths up and down
Wooden frame in which the canvas would be stretched for painting
Looking down into the frame
The original staircase leading up to the paint frames
Fullers Earth & Walnut Dust
The trough for the central frame, enabling cloths to be winched up and down, remaining at arm’s length for the painters
Flints Theatrical Chandlers, 39 Queens Row, Walworth, SE17 2PX
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