Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road, London W14 8LZ
(open daily from 10am to 5:30pm, except Tuesdays. Last entry at 5pm)
The Leighton oils
The museum has a collection of 76 oil paintings by Leighton. These range from the small and loosely-painted colour sketches that he produced as part of the process of making his pictures, through to large-scale finished works produced for exhibition at the Royal Academy. An important group of Leighton’s landscape sketches, made at various times as he travelled, represents this lesser-known aspect of his artistic production.
The collection of paintings is ‘bookended’ by two major works. The Death of Brunelleschi was painted in 1852 as Leighton’s final work as a student at the Stadelesches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt, Germany. Acquired for the museum in 1909, it is testament to Leighton’s early accomplishment and ambition. Clytie, the picture that he was working on at the time of his death almost 45 years later, was acquired by the museum in 2008.
The Leighton sculptures
Leighton exhibited just three works of sculpture, but their influence over a younger generation of British sculptors and the ‘New Sculpture’ movement was profound. The museum holds casts of each of these works; An Athlete Wrestling with a Python, The Sluggard and Needless Alarms. In addition, the collection includes one of the limited number of plaster casts of the first sketch model for An Athlete Wrestling with a Python, which Leighton presented to friends and fellow artists. The example at the museum was presented around 1900 by Leighton’s friend and close neighbour, the artist G F Watts.
The Leighton drawings
The largest single collection in the museum and one of the largest deposits of drawings by a nineteenth-century artist, is the collection of some 700 of Leighton’s sketches and studies. The collection was assembled in the early years of the twentieth century, shortly after the establishment of the museum. Drawn from the contents of Leighton’s studio at the time of his death, the collection was designed to be representative of his output, demonstrate his skill as a draughtsman and underline the importance that drawing had in his practice. The collection includes sketches made as boy, through to studies for his most celebrated works including Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna and Flaming June.
The entire collection was catalogued, conserved and a touring exhibition organised in 2005-2007, with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
View the catalogue of Leighton’s Drawings from the museum collection and around the world
Prints and Photogravures of Leighton’s Work
A collection of prints and photogravures made from Leighton’s finished paintings was established in conjunction with the drawings collection around 1900. Many are signed artist’s proofs and were presented to the museum by the original publishers. Others were donations made by his friends and admirers.
The museum holds a small collection of personal objects associated with Leighton’s life. These include palettes and pigments, his seal, and a collection of 26 international honours and diplomas presented to Leighton.
Works by Leighton’s Friends and Contemporaries
In addition to the Leighton material, the museum holds a relatively small but significant collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture by his contemporaries. The paintings include works by John Everett Millais (1829-1896), George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Frederick Sandys (1829-1904), Byam Shaw (1872-1919), Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919) and Solomon J. Solomon (1860-1927).
Drawings include examples by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), J A M Whistler and George Howard (1843-1911) and watercolours and other works on paper by George Pryce Boyce (1826-1897), Thomas Rooke (1842-1942), Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919) and Leighton’s inspirational master at the Stadelesches Kunstinstitut, Edward von Steinle (1810-1886).
Also included is a group of photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) whose family had close associations with the Holland Park artist’s colony.
Through the 1920s, the museum was presented with an important group of sculpture by the widow of Leighton’s close neighbour Hamo Thorneycroft. Later this was joined by a group of designs and maquettes by Alfred Gilbert, whose career had benefited from Leighton’s direct patronage. Works by Thomas Brock, who assisted Leighton in the making of his own sculpture, include the plaster model for Leighton’s memorial in the north aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral.
De Morgan and Post De-Morgan Pottery
The museum holds a collection of about 100 pieces of pottery by William De Morgan and his later associates, particularly Fred Passenger. Following De Morgan’s death, Passenger continued his practice through the Bushey Heath Pottery which was established with the support of Mrs Ida Perrin. Much of this collection was presented by Ida Perrin who together with her husband paid for the construction of the Perrin Gallery as an extension at the east end of Leighton House at the end of the 1920s.