9 February 2013

Leighton House Museum

I discovered the Leighton House Museum almost by accident.

What caused the accident was an evening theatre date in Hammersmith, a free afternoon and the Art Guide app.

The house that became a museum is just off Kensington High Street (a.k.a. A315) in Holland Park Road which runs parallel to the main road just to the east of Kensington Olympia.

This is an unusual part of Town with lots of mixed housing but little in the way of shops and cafes to support the locals. It is all quite bleak.

And Leighton House is not much to look at from the outside either.

Inside is a different matter. Turning left from the entrance takes you in to the Arab Hall (pictured) that took me right back to Turkey. No surprise that as it was a visit to Turkey in 1867 that Leighton started to collect the artifacts that would be used to build it ten years later.

The Arab Hall is stunning and I spent several minutes at the start and at the end of the tour admiring the construction and the decoration.

The rest of the house is fairly normal, if somewhat large for a single man. Leighton was an artist and the museum (as it now is) is full of his works, a few of which I actually liked.

Two other rooms lead off the downstairs hall; one is a muddy brown, the other a blood red and the hall is dark blue.

Upstairs, apart from the almost inconsequential bedroom, there is another large hall with one large room leading off it. These are all endowed with skylights and so felt bright and spacious, even on a dull February day.

The paintings are mostly portraits and the few landscapes and townscapes are mainly small sketches, which is a shame (for me) as I would much rather look at old buildings in Damascus than some unknown woman.

I guess that I am in a minority here (not unusual) as Leighton became President of the Royal Academy of Arts and rose to be Lord Leighton, Baron of Stretton. Queen Victoria visited his house and bought some of his early major paintings.

I may have only found the place by accident but other people seem to be better informed and there was a reasonable crowd passing through during the three quarters of an hour or so that I managed to stretch the six main rooms out for.

Leighton House Museum is too small to go far out of your way for but if you happen to be in the area, and there are enough other reasons to be around there, then it is certainly worth a look. The Arab Hall alone justifies a visit.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Matthew, it is a pleasure to read your informative and inspired posts. I had very similar experience of Leighton House myself having discovered it quite by chance. I came across your blog while researching Glyndebourne Opera Company as I am Mozart aficionado and was surprised that you were so local to me. I teach classical drawing in St. Thomas Aquinas church every Friday.


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