Leighton House Museum
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|Leighton House Museum|
|Location||12 Holland Park Road, Holland Park, London W14|
|Governing body||Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council|
|Official name: Leighton House|
|Designated||30 August 1961|
The former home of the painter Frederic, Lord Leighton, it has been open to the public since 1929. Built for Leighton by the architect and designer George Aitchison, it is a Grade II* listed building. It is noted for its elaborate Orientalist and aesthetic interiors. It is open to the public daily except Tuesdays, and is a companion museum to 18 Stafford Terrace, another Victorian artist's home in Kensington.
The first part of the house (2 Holland Park Road, later renumbered as 12) was designed in 1864 by the architect George Aitchison, although Leighton was not granted a lease on the land until April 1866. Building commenced shortly afterwards, and the house, which cost £4500 equivalent to £374,632 in 2014, was ready for occupation by the end of the year. The building is of red Suffolk bricks with Caen Stone dressings in a restrained classical style.
The architect extended the building over 30 years; the first phase was only three windows wide. The main room was the first floor studio, facing north, originally 45 by 25 feet, with a large central window to provide plenty of light for painting. There was also a gallery at the east end, and a separate staircase for use by models. The house was extended to the east in 1869–70.
The major extension was made in 1877–79: the two-storey Arab Hall, built to house Leighton's collection of tiles collected during visits to the Middle East. According to Aitchison and Walter Crane the design was based on the palace of La Zisa in Palermo. The 17th-century tiles are complemented by carved wooden lattice-work windows of the same period from Damascus. There are also large 16th-century Turkish tiles. The west wall has a wooden alcove with inset 14th-century tiles.
The room also contains Victorian elements, the capitals of the smaller columns are by Sir Joseph Boehm, from Aitchison's designs. The capitals of the large columns, gilded and carved in the shape of birds are by Randolph Caldecot. The mosaic frieze was designed by Walter Crane. The Marble work was by George P. White. Elaborate decorative paintwork decorates the domed ceiling and in the centre of the floor there is a fountain. The tiles in the passage to the Arab Hall are by William de Morgan.
In 1889 an additional winter studio was added to the building the final addition by Aitchison was the top-lit picture gallery in 1895. After Leighton died in 1896 the contents of the house was sold, including at least one thousand of his own drawings, almost all of which were bought by the Fine Art Society. In 1927 Mrs Henry Perrin offered to pay for additional gallery space, the building was extended to the designs of Halsey Ricardo, the Perrin Galleries opening in 1929. This extension was in memory of Mrs Perrin's daughter Muriel Ida Perrin, an artist who had trained at the Royal College of Art  and worked for the catalogue section of the The Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco) during the First World War. Muriel had died on 12 March 1919, aged 29, of pneumonia following Spanish Influenza.
The museum was awarded the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award in 2012.
The museum has on permanent display works of art by various members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood including John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones and George Frederick Watts as well as 81 oil paintings by Leighton himself.
Some of the most notable oil paintings by Leighton in the collection are:
- The Death of Brunelleschi - 1852
- Charles Edward Perugini - 1855
- A Noble Lady of Venice - c1865
- Hercules Wrestling with Death for the Body of Alcestes - 1869–71
- Clytemnestra from the Battlements of Argos Watches for the Beacon Fires Which Are to Announce the Return of Agamemnon - c1874
- Professor Giovanni Costa - 1878
- The Countess of Brownlow - c1878–79
- The Vestal - c1882-3
- Alexandra Sutherland Orr (née Leighton) - 1890
- And the sea gave up the dead which were in it - c1891–92
Other works by Leighton in the collection include:
- 5 albums and sketchbooks of drawings and watercolours.
- 27 watercolours.
- 54 prints of Leighton's works.
- 14 items of personal material including documents, personal mementos, embroideries, enamels and caricatures.
- Several small scale sculptures including: Athlete Strangling a Python 1874 & Needless Alarms 1887.
Works in the collection not by Leighton include:
- Antonio Rossellino's carved and coloured relief: Madonna of the Candleabra, which had been in Leighton's collection, sold after his death and re-acquired by the Museum in 2006.
- G.F. Watts portrait of Frederic Leighton.
- Luke Fildes Still Life & Study for The Widower.
- Sir Alfred Gilbert original sketch model for Eros.
The house's pseudo-Islamic court has featured as a set in various film and television programs, such as Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Brazil, and an episode of the British television drama series Spooks, as well as the music video for the songs "Golden Brown" by The Stranglers and "Gold" by Spandau Ballet.
- "Leighton House". English Heritage list. English Heritage. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- Caroline Dakers, The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society (1999), p. 60
- F.H.W. Sheppard, ed., Survey of London XXXVII Northern Kensington (1973), p. 136
- Sheppard, Survey, p. 140
- Sheppard, Survey, p. 141
- Bryon Parkin, The Arts and Crafts of Bushey Heath (Bushey Museum Trust, 2003), p. 12
- The Air-co Rag, March 1919
- Dakers, Caroline. (1999) The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society Yale University Press ISBN 978-0-30008-164-0
- Robbins, Daniel. (2011) Leighton House Museum Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council (KCBC) ISBN 978-0-90224-223-4
- Robbins, Daniel and Dakers, Caroline. (2011) George Aitchison: Leighton's architect revealed (KCBC) ISBN 978-0-90224-279-1
- Various. (2010) Closer to Home: The Restoration of Leighton House and Catalogue of the Reopening Displays 2010 (KCBC)
- Information and virtual tour at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea website
- Information from the 24 Hour Museum