Leighton House

Behind the modest red brick facade, lies the breathtaking home and studio of Artist, Lord Frederic Leighton.

‘He built his house as it now stands for his own artistic delight. Every stone of it had been the object of his loving care. It was a joy to him until the moment when he lay down to die.’ Leighton’s sisters in a letter to The Times, 1899 [Robins, 2005]

Link to a virtual tour: https://panoramea.co.uk/leightonhousemuseum/

I walked in with my mother’s hands over my eyes and stood in The Staircase Hall, facing the Arab Hall. My mother counted down and took her hands away. I remember being in total awe. Standing there with my sketchbook at a complete loss to know where to start. You need a whole week in Leighton House to fully absorb it all.

The ceramic wares of the Ottoman Empire are a great passion of mine and so to walk into such a fantastic room, adorned with Middle Eastern tiles, was immense. The rich blue of the tiles in The Staircase Hall had the same depth and quality of hue as a peacock’s chest, very beautiful.

Leighton built a vast collection of artefacts from his travels and many of the tiles in the house are originals from Syria and Turkey. Not only does the house boast authentic Iznik wares, but also works from Leighton’s contemporaries, William De Morgan and Charles Voysey! Two great masters of the Arts and Crafts/ Art Nouveau movement. De Morgan recreated and matched many of the broken tiles that Leighton had collected.

Both De Morgan and Voysey’s contributions to the house are visible in the Arab Hall. If you find your way to the Arab Hall in the virtual tour, I believe that the gold frieze that runs around the perimeter of the room is Voysey’s and the birds to your left, were repaired and mirrored by De Morgan.

This visit inspired my take on a collaborative project that our university did with Liberty Art Fabrics. I thought Leighton’s collection and his life fitted in with Liberty’s heritage, reflecting Arthur Liberty’s passion for all things Eastern. I won the competition with Liberty Art Fabrics and they bought my artwork.

Like with most of my blog posts, I urge you to visit Leighton House yourself, the virtual tour does not do justice to the reality.

Museum website: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/leightonhousemuseum1.aspx

ROBINS, Daniel. 2011. Leighton House Museum, Holland Park Road, London. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. London