I have written about my love of Leighton House Museum before. I truly believe it is one of London’s hidden gems. Tucked away in a residential street very close to beautiful Holland Park is the former home and studios of the painter Lord Fredrick Leighton. This large red brick house, not that dissimilar to many other large houses in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea where it resides, may not even warrant a second glance were it not for the blue plaque attached to it.
However the moment you step inside it is very clear realise this is very far from just another large house, but in fact somewhere very special indeed. The entrance hall is a vision of turquoise and blue mosaic from floor to ceiling. Marble pillars and gold borders, a domed ceiling, sculptures and incredible attention to detail. Its hard to know quite where to look first. Despite having visited a number of times, I am always thrilled by it.
Lord Leighton spent much of his time travelling in the middle east and this influence is evident throughout the house, with paintings, those glorious tiles and rugs and fabrics. If that wasn’t enough the museum houses a regularly changing programme of exhibitions. Currently showing is the Alma Tadema At Home in Antiquity which I had the pleasure of visiting a few weeks go..
I discovered Alma Tadema simply as a result of seeing the exhibition advertised on the back of a London bus! I knew nothing of the artist previosuly but as soon as I saw the image shown above I knew I had to see more. The soft colours, the intensity of the woman’s gaze and the blue sea instantly appealed.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema was a celebrated Victorian dutch artist, who moved to London in 1870 where he settled in St John’s Wood with his wife and daughters. The exhibition follows his career from his earliest works, his fascination with Pompeii and his classical scenes set against mediterranean skies and sea.
Theres lots going on in this exhibition and the best way to see it is by taking advantage of the head set guides which will talk you through a number of the paintings, leaving you free to pick and choose the ones you are interested in and want to know a little more about.
The exhibition also features some works by Laura Alma Tadema who was also an established and successful painter. A part of the exhibition I found especially interesting was the the attention given to Alma Tademas influence on film makers. An exhibition film shows clips from films such as Quo Vadis (1913), The Ten commandments (1956) and Gladiator (2000). There are clear images in all of these films which appear to have been lifted directly from some of his classical works.
The exhibition culminates in the exhibition gallery where some of his most ambitious and well known works are on display. It was this room which I loved most. Huge detailed paintings depicting his interpretation of life in ancient times. The scale and attention to detail is incredible and the contrast with his earlier much more sombre works at the beginning of the exhibition striking.
Leighton House Museum is the perfect setting for these pictures. They adorn every room, the stair case and of course Leightons impressive studio on the top floor. The large canvases such as the ones above are truly breathtaking. The warmth of the colours, the softness of fabrics, the pinks of the flower and the light on the water drew me in completely. If you can get to the exhibition before it closes on the 29th October I feel sure you won’t be disappointed. However if you can’t make it before then do visit the Leighton House at another time, it really is one of London’s hidden gems.
You can read more about Leighton house and its sister property 18 Stafford Terrace here.