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 Frederick 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 — you realize 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. It’s 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 traveling in the middle east. His travels influence on his style is evident throughout the house with paintings and those glorious tiles and rugs and fabrics. If that was not enough, the museum houses a regularly changing program of exhibitions. I had the pleasure of visiting the Alma Tadema At Home In Antiquity exhibition.
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 previously but as soon as I saw ‘A Coign Of Vantage 1895’ I knew I had to see more. The soft colors, the intensity of the woman’s gaze, and the blue sea instantly appealed to me.
Sir 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 a lot going on in this exhibition — 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 attention given to Alma Tadema’s 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. There were 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 were striking.
Leighton House Museum is the perfect setting for these pictures. They adorn every room, the stair case, and of course Leighton’s impressive studio on the top floor. The large canvases such as the ones above are truly breathtaking. The warmth of the colors, the softness of fabrics, the pinks of the flowers, and the light on the water drew me in completely. 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.
|| Reviewer, Traveler, & Lifestyle Blogger || About Angela Vincent
Angela is a 40 something fully paid up bookworm and a regular contributor to The Black Lion Journal. She lives and works in London. By day you will find her working in a busy hospital as a Macmillan Palliative Care Nurse Specialist. Her aim is to do those things which make her heart sing and spend time with those who make her smile. A love of books, reading, and writing has always been a big part of her life. ‘Changing pages’ began as a natural extension of that in 2014, and is a continuation of many years of dedicated scribbling and journal keeping. When she is not reading books, she can often be found writing about them or thinking about what she might read next.