The district of Chelsea in the south west of London is part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (royal owing to Kensington Palace).
One particular street in Chelsea was almost an American enclave for artists and writers in the late Victorian period . These included John Singer Sargent (between 1885 and 1925), James McNeil Whistler (1870 to late 1880’s) and Mark Twain (1896 to 1898). One can still see the houses where these men lived and visit the streets they strolled around Tite Street in Chelsea.
John Singer Sargent became the most prolific portrait painter in England whilst living at 33 Tite Street – initially, from the flat above his countryman; James McNeil Whistler.
Helped by his portrait of a friend’s daughter (‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’) and his portrait of the super-famous Victorian actress Ellen Terry, both his fame and collection grew. In 1899, Sargent took over 31 Tite Street and connected the two buildings. At his peak, Tite Street could get very crowded as members of the art loving public and aristocracy would throng to his studio to see his paintings. He died at home in Tite Street in 1925.
(Not far away lived Sargent’s English competitor for attention during the period; Oscar Wilde, at 34 Tite Street. Oscar lived at 34 Tite Street from 1884 to 1895 with his wife Constance and their two sons. This is where he wrote many of his works, including ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in 1895).
At the north end of Tite Street is the former home of Mark Twain (between 1896 and 1898) – it is 23 Tedworth Square. He moved here in his early 60’s. This is where he learned the new skill (of the time) of dictating to a typist and he completed ‘Tom Sawyer, Detective’ and ‘Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc’. Mark Twain would enjoy strolls (unnoticed) around the neighbourhood of what he called ‘Shakespeare People’.
All the houses are private residences today. But gaze at the building and imagine the scenes of a century ago and read the historical ‘blue plaques’ on the buildings. I also recommended you visit the local pub. Established in 1853, it would have featured in the men’s lives! It’s called ‘The Surprise’. See link below:
You can see portraits of John Singer Sargent, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde at the National Portrait Gallery. See link below: