The Art Fund helps bring Leighton masterpiece home

  • 24 June 2008

The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity, has stepped in at the last minute with the final £7,500 needed to acquire Lord Leighton's very last great masterpiece, Clytie, for Leighton House Museum, once Leighton's studio. This final amount has been awarded in addition to The Art Fund's earlier grant towards the purchase of the work, of £75,000.

Frederic, Lord Leighton was one of the most eminent British artists of the late 19th century. In 1878 Leighton was elected President of the Royal Academy and knighted for his services to the arts. He went on to receive many awards and commendations, and was ennobled shortly before his death in 1896 - he remains the only British artist to have been honoured in this way. Leighton was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral on the personal approval of Queen Victoria, where a tomb to his memory now stands.

Clytie powerfully depicts a sense of loss and despair at a time of departure, giving the work a powerful autobiographical resonance, as it was this very painting that Leighton struggled with whilst facing his final illness. He left it unfinished in his Kensington studio at the time of his death in 1896, and when his coffin was moved to the studio the painting was placed at its head. It is this studio that was established in his memory as Leighton House Museum shortly after his death and contains an unrivalled collection of his paintings, drawings, sculpture and archival material.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “This striking painting was left unfinished at the time of Lord Leighton’s death, marking the end of the career of one of our nation’s most distinguished painters. It is right and fitting that Leighton House Museum, the studio where it was created as he struggled with his final illness, should be the permanent home of this important and poignant work.”

The unfinished areas of the picture reveal the processes and layers involved in Leighton’s picture making. Careful planning was paramount to his methods as seen in the areas clearly displaying his preparatory sketches. However areas of heavy painterly marks can also be seen elsewhere on the canvas, making it an unusual example of Leighton’s work.

Throughout his career Leighton increasingly turned to classical subjects and used techniques based upon his knowledge of the skills of The Old Masters. Clytie is the nymph that featured in the tragedy Metamorphoses by the Roman writer Ovid. She is rejected by Apollo the god of music and poetry, and spent nine heartbroken days in a wild and isolated place watching as her former lover drove his chariot across the sky.

Clytie was purchased for £420,000, with an initial grant from The Art Fund of £75,000, in addition to the final grant of £7,500. £310,000 came from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the remaining amount came from local and museum funds.


Notes to Editors:
1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit
5. For interview requests relating to Leighton House Museum please contact 020 7361 3259.
6. Leighton House Museum is owned and managed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.