phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Discover London: Leighton House Museum

Discover London: Leighton House Museum

26 October 2016 Stephanie Brandhuber

Take a walk through beautiful, leafy Kensington, and you might just stumble upon one of London’s best-kept secrets without even knowing it. Plain and unassuming on the outside, Leighton House is a palace of art and decadence when you step through its front doors. Once home to famous painter Sir Frederic Leighton, this Victorian house is unlike any home you’ll have ever seen, especially right in the middle of busy London. With ornate tile work, priceless art hanging from every wall, and a glorious artist’s studio, Leighton House really does have to be seen to be believed.

Frederic Leighton was one of the most prolific artists of the Victorian era and had an international as well as a national standing. He won a plethora of awards and honours and was well acquainted with members of the Royal Family. He was charming, handsome and had a generous nature, allowing him to move smoothly amidst the highest social circles and forge lasting friendships across the globe.
 
Leighton acquired the plot for his home in 1864 and immediately started to draw up plans for its construction. Wanting to build a purpose-built studio-house, he approached his friend George Aitchinson to be his architect for this monumental project. Leighton was very specific with what he wanted from his lavish home, and over the following thirty years, the house was extended and embellished to become the “private palace of art” that we see today.
 
Leighton House is the epitome of what was known as the “house beautiful” style, which promoted the notion of “Art for Art’s sake” and drew heavily on Middle-Eastern and Oriental decorative traditions. Indeed, the most impressive room in the house is without a doubt the Arab Hall. With its golden dome, intricate mosaics and walls lined with stunning Islamic tiles, this Middle Eastern inspired room is breathtaking in its detailed beauty.
 
Speaking with Senior Curator Daniel Robbins about this impressive but unusual room, he describes how Leighton’s inspiration for this extension came from his extensive travels in North Africa, Turkey and Damascus where he collected tiles and fabrics to bring back to his London home.
 
“By the end of the 1870s he had over 1000 tiles, and he had the idea of building this extraordinary extension to his house and being able to line the walls with these wonderful tiles,” explains Daniel, “And so he set about creating it based on a building that still stands - a palace in Palermo in Sicily called La Ziza which was a 12th Century palace. So using marbles, tiles and mosaics, he recreated the sense and spirit of that interior to create this so-called Arab Hall.”



The opulence of the Arab Hall continues through to the other richly decorated interiors. Visitors will be awestruck by the incredible vibrancy of the peacock blue tiles that line the ground floor walls leading to the Arab Hall, which still shine and glimmer despite their considerable age.  According to Daniel Robbins, William De Morgan, the ceramicist responsible for these stunning tiles, was so obsessed with getting the highest quality of glaze on them that he actually ended up losing money on the job due to redoing so many of the tiles in order to not disappoint his esteemed client Leighton.

With such glamour and extravagance dripping from every wall and ceiling of the house, it would be natural to assume that Leighton’s bedroom would be similarly decorated. This is far from the case, however. In fact, it’s almost comically sober: dark green William Morris wallpaper and a modest single bed are pretty much all that make up his sleeping quarters. Rumours of Leighton’s sexuality have been circulating since before he passed away, but from his sparse bedroom, it is assumed he rarely had company staying in his private room.
 
While Leighton continues to be a mysterious figure in art history, his work on the other hand continues to be celebrated and recognised globally as an enduring example of neoclassical mastery. Leighton House Museum prides itself on its varied programme of events throughout the year which includes retrospectives of Leighton’s own work as well as exhibitions of Leighton’s contemporaries’ art and current up-and-coming artists whose canvasses can often be seen hanging in this lavish house for special exhibitions.
 
It is with great excitement that Leighton House Museum has announced its upcoming exhibition starting on 4th November 2016, Flaming June: The Making of an Icon. This landmark exhibition will see the return of Leighton’s most famous and celebrated work, Flaming June, to the artist’s house from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico. The exhibition will explore the extraordinary story of this painting, from its creation in Leighton’s studio, its first critical reception at the Royal Academy, its “disappearance” in the middle of the 20th Century, to its acquisition by Luis A. Ferré, Governor of Puerto Rico for the Museo de Arte de Ponce in 1963 and subsequent rise to international fame as one of the most memorable and reproduced images British art has ever seen. 
 
In the Victorian era, Leighton’s house was at the very centre of the London art world, a hotbed for creativity, debate, and socialising. Today, Leighton House Museum is an opportunity to enter a secret world of bygone decadence, which allows visitors to understand and appreciate Victorian art and architecture. Don’t delay in visiting one of London’s most beautiful little-known gems.
 

Leighton House Museum is located at 12 Holland Park Road, London W14 8LZ, and is open daily from 10am to 5:30pm, except Tuesdays. Tickets are £7, £5 concessions. Flaming June: The Making of an Icon will run from 4th November 2016–2nd April 2017. For more information and too book tickets, visit Leighton House online.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

This Week August 28 – September 3

This Week August 28 – September 3

“Do you remember dancing in September? Never was a cloudy day.” Earth, Wind and Fire knew their stuff, as September, despite heralding the start of the…

Street Hassle at the Marlborough Contemporary Gallery

Street Hassle at the Marlborough Contemporary Gallery

For their summer exhibition, Marlborough Contemporary are inviting us to take a walk on the wild side, staging a group show that aims to turn…

Fahrelnissa Zeid at Tate Modern

Fahrelnissa Zeid at Tate Modern

Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901-1991), or الأميرة فخر النساء زيد‎‎ in Arabic, was a Turkish-born princess, teacher, traveller and painter who constantly reinvented her art. As an ambassador’s wife…

Win a 3 Course Meal with Wine at Drake and Morgan

KXCQ - Win a 3 Course Meal with Wine at Drake and Morgan

We're giving away an indulgent meal for two people to enjoy in King's Cross.

Guildhall Galleries

Guildhall Galleries

A free series of galleries exploring the rich and colourful history of the City of London.

Cirque Éloize’s Saloon at The Peacock

Cirque Éloize’s Saloon at The Peacock

Saddle up for a journey to the Wild West with this spectacular new circus show!

Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia

Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia

The Scythians were a race of nomadic warriors who ruled the vast plains of Siberia 2,500 years ago. Precious little was known about this race…

Rhythm Passport Tickets Giveaway

Rhythm Passport Tickets Giveaway

Our lovely friends at Rhythm Passport are giving away lots of free gig tickets!

An interview with designer Rodney Kinsman

An interview with designer Rodney Kinsman

Rodney Kinsman is a world-renowned designer, whose career spans home-ware and mass industrial production. Having spent the early part of his career working closely with…

Raft of the Medusa at The Foundling Museum

Raft of the Medusa at The Foundling Museum

A series of five sculptures from acclaimed artist Rachel Kneebone

Most popular

Win a 3 Course Meal with Wine at Drake and Morgan

KXCQ - Win a 3 Course Meal with Wine at Drake and Morgan

We're giving away an indulgent meal for two people to enjoy in King's Cross.
Win 4 Tickets to Climb an Iconic London Landmark

Up at The O2 - Win 4 Tickets to Climb an Iconic London Landmark

Prepare yourself for an unforgettable 90 minute experience on the roof of The O2!
Win One of Five Pairs of Tickets to Symphonic Queen Concert!

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Win One of Five Pairs of Tickets to Symphonic Queen Concert!

Experience a night of Queen’s greatest hits, performed by the amplified Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Royal Albert Hall.
Win Tickets to an Exclusive Spanish Art Event!

Wallace Collection - Win Tickets to an Exclusive Spanish Art Event!

Join us for an after-hours tour and drinks reception at an exhibition of stunning Spanish artwork.
Win two stand-up comedy tickets, food and drinks!

Pizza Express Live - Win two stand-up comedy tickets, food and drinks!

Win two tickets, plus food and drink, to Andrew Ryan, Phil Jerrod and Ivo Graham at Pizza Express Live
Win a Meal for Two People

Off the Wall & onto the Plate - Win a Meal for Two People

Your chance to win a seven-course meal of deliciously decorative dishes!
Win Private View Tickets!

MADE LONDON - Win Private View Tickets!

This October, meet designers and craftspeople and buy beautiful handmade objects at MADE LONDON.
Win Tickets to an Opening Night Concert

London Piano Festival - Win Tickets to an Opening Night Concert

Your chance to win tickets to a night of beautiful piano music, including Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Schumann, Rachmaninov, Liszt.
Rhythm Passport Tickets Giveaway

Rhythm Passport Tickets Giveaway

Our lovely friends at Rhythm Passport are giving away lots of free gig tickets!

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!