For sale: artists Sir Anthony Caro and Sheila Girling’s hidden Hampstead home
- Credit: Archant
A converted 18th-century stable block and smithy attached to Flitcroft House in Frognal is an unassuming spot for one for one of the boldest ventures in 20th-century British sculpture.
A converted 18th-century stable block and smithy attached to Flitcroft House in Frognal is an unassuming spot for one for one of the boldest ventures in 20th-century British sculpture. But it is here, hidden away behind a walled, gated courtyard in a slightly sunken two-storey house that the sculptor Sir Anthony Caro constructed one of his most renowned works, the large abstract steel sculpture ‘Early One Morning’, in the garage, with help from his wife, the painter Sheila Girling.
“I remember finishing ‘Early One Morning’, which had become so long I’d ended up with the garage doors permanently open. I’d painted it green and we’d put it out on the lawn to get a better look. I woke up next morning and opened the curtains and there it was. But the colour was wrong. Sheila said ‘that’s definitely a red sculpture’. She was spot on, and that it is what it became,” Caro told Tim Marlow in a recorded interview.
The work went on to feature in the 1963 show at the Whitechapel Gallery that made Caro’s name, and is now in Tate Britain’s permanent collection.
Caro and Girling met in 1948 when they were both studying at the Royal Academy and they married shortly after, describing their marriage as a 64-year conversation about art.
They moved into the Frognal house, which is now on the market for £5million, in 1953 and raised their two children there. Their artistic endeavours also took place at home initially, but eventually relocated to a converted pipe factory in Camden Town.
While Girling took a step back from painting to bring up the couple’s two children, focussing on helping Caro with his coloured steel sculptures, which she would frequently choose colours for and even paint for him, she became a renowned acrylic and collage artist once their two sons were at school.
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Having started his career working as Henry Moore’s assistant, Caro went on to teach at St Martin’s School of Art, inspiring younger artists including Philip King, William Tucker, Richard Long, Barry Flanagan, Gilbert and George, Richard Deacon.
The family also travelled to America for extended periods, and Caro and Girling set up the influential Triangle workshop in New York State.
Caro died aged 89 in 2013, and Girling’s death aged 90 followed in 2015.
The house has been cleared of their effects for the sale, but it’s not hard to imagine what an appealing blank canvas the white walled, light-filled rooms must have provided for a house full of art.
The original building was built as an annexe to a group of houses built by Henry Flitcroft, an architect, in 1745. The first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald, lived in the main house between the wars, as did Hollywood screenwriter Donald Ogden Steward, a refugee from Macarthyism in the 1950s, the decade the coach house building was subdivided from the larger house.
Caro and Girling commissioned noted Brutalist architects Alison and Peter Smithson, the duo behind the doomed Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, to design an extension to the grade II* listed original building.
Both Caro and Girling were prolific and worked well into old age – Girling exhibited regularly at international galleries as well as at the RA and in Camden. Caro produced thousands of works, which are held in every major international contemporary art collection. He was also on the design committee for the Millennium Bridge in London, linking St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern. But through it all, Hampstead remained home.
To find out more call Goldschmidt & Howland on 020 7435 4404 or visit g-h.co.uk