Leighton House Museum
- | 020 7602 3316
- | www.rbkc.gov.uk/museums
- Free entry with National Art Pass.
- View venue & entry details
Reopened in 2010 after a £1.6 million restoration, Leighton House in Kensington is the product of an Aesthetic imagination run wild.
Unencumbered by either family or financial limits, Frederic, Lord Leighton created a space that was at once a home, a studio and an architectural expression of his artistic creed - his 'private palace of art'. The house was developed gradually over the course of three decades by architect George Aitchison, and was still in progress when he died in 1895. Now restored to full splendour, it is a museum to Leighton's life and work.
The artistic hub of Leighton House is the two-storey Arab Hall. It was built as a showcase for Leighton's collection of more than 1,000 tiles collected in the Middle East, and is a symphonic riot of colour and pattern. The hall's columns are ornamented with carved birds, and even the domed ceiling is covered in decorative paintwork. In the centre a fountain plays gently.
The interior of the house has now been restored to as close to its original state as possible. The result demonstrates Leighton's wide-ranging fondness for Aesthetic décor, Arts and Crafts furniture and Oriental objects. Visitors can admire Leighton's vast domed studio with its gallery, often home to the artist's musical parties, as well as the house's more informal entertaining spaces.
On the walls of the Silk Room hang fine examples of work by Leighton's fellow artists Millais, Burne-Jones, Watts and Sargent. Some 80 of Leighton's own paintings, as well as his small-scale sculptures and personal ephemera, are on display throughout the house.
Art Funded works
Abandoned unfinished in his studio at his death, Clytie is Leighton's final work. Acquired with the aid of The Art Fund in 2008, it is the first mature painting by the artist to enter the Leighton House collection. Depicting Clytie, Apollo's rejected lover, it captures the magnificent isolation to which she pledges herself before transforming into a flower and becoming rooted to the ground.
The half-length portrait of Lord Leighton by GF Watts reflects the lifelong friendship between artist and sitter. Captured with his head resting casually on his hand, Leighton gazes gently out towards the viewer.
There is no café at Leighton House, but refreshment of a different kind can be sought during summer in the small garden at the back of the house that has been restored to its original Victorian design. There is also a shop selling books, crafts and postcards relating to Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite art.