The Atelier System & Philosophy

Portrait painting
Atelier training originates in the bottega system of the Renaissance whereby novices were apprenticed to a master artist or craftsman who would oversee their instruction; thus Leonardo was taught by Verrocchio, Michelangelo studied under Ghirlandaio, while Titian’s master was Bellini. By the nineteenth century, a typical atelier was usually the personal studio of an established artist who received a small number of students for private instruction, often to augment their studies at the official academies. John Singer Sargent sought out the studio of the fashionable portrait painter M. Carolus-Duran to supplement his studies at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris.

At the Sarum Studio, the emphasis is on working from life from day one under natural light, with ample space for students to stand back to review their work at the proper distance. Students progress through a course of study under the personal supervision of Nicholas Beer, with assistance from Helen Davison ( and Alastair Barford ( There are no student teachers at the Sarum Studio.