From the moment you step into this Victorian house in north-east London, it is clear you have entered into an artist’s world. Canvases in various states of completion are stacked upright against one wall, frames dangle from above, and art snakes its way up the walls of the stairs. And this is just the hallway. This is the live-work home of Haidee Becker – a painter who, for the past 50 years, has been capturing the inner life of her subjects through exquisite, contemplative still lifes and portraits. Her work, especially that from the past five years, which is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at Patrick Bourne & Co, is serene and moving, touching on the fragility of life and featuring gently drooping irises and hunks of raw meat. ‘The paintings represent a moment in time,’ explains Haidee. ‘My work has always been about death really – but also about defeating it in that moment through paint.’
Although her layered and artfully conceived house might suggest otherwise, she has only lived here since 2019. ‘I arrived here like a snail, with all of my possessions on my back,’ she says, gesturing to the walls of her study, a charming room at the front of the house that is lined floor-to-ceiling with treasured books and paintings she inherited from her parents and collected over the years. Born in Hollywood in 1950 to American parents – her father was a civil rights activist and gallerist and her mother, a Hollywood actress and society star – Haidee moved to Rome at the age of two and grew up in a renaissance palace. ‘My parents have shaped me more than anything else, because they were really rather unusual,’ she laughs. The family moved to London in 1969, making a home in one of the spectacular artist-studio houses on Glebe Place in Chelsea. After her father’s death, it became Haidee’s studio where she remained until 2012.