Leighton in the Limelight

Mosaic Video Arts

Sylvia Smith: This year marks 120 years since the death of Frederick, Lord Leighton, perhaps best remembered for his remarkable house in Kensington, near Holland Park. This personal, architectural tribute to Middle Eastern art and decorative crafts was Leighton’s home for over thirty years.

Built in a part of London that attracted leading Victorian artists, Leighton House represents the taste of a “celebrity” of the late 20th century; an aesthete who pursued his vision of a working studio blending into a private palace “with relentless perfection”.

The centrepiece of the house conjures up the Arabian Nights. A showcase for Leighton’s collection of tiles acquired on his travels, a number of tiles were contributed by the great Victorian explorer and friend of Leighton, Sir Richard Burton.

The light-filled room where Leighton worked and the scene of his famous musical evenings when some of the greatest musicians of the age performed. Concerts and lectures continue to be held here as part of the Leighton legacy.

004 Winston Churchill and Hassan El Glaoui exhibition

An exhibition of paintings by Sir Winston Churchill and Hassan El Glaoui, the youngest son of the last Pasha of Marrakech underlines the long link with North Africa. The paintings show the city of Marrakech and its surroundings. Leighton first went to North Africa in 1857.

Moroccan conceptual artist Hassan Hajjaj displays his specially upholstered chairs in the upstairs room adjacent to Leighton’s studio. Each year the house shows temporary exhibitions and hosts the annual Nour festival.

The annual festival of Arab culture is held in locations throughout the Borough. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has the largest number of Middle Eastern residents in London. Here Iraqi artist Suad Al-Attar is seen with her triptych symbolising the power of the palm tree.

007 Leighton House, balcony

The “zenana” was brought by Leighton from Cairo and the room commissioned shortly before Leighton’s death in 1896. Leighton was President of the Royal Academy. Through his friendship with the Prince of Wales he became the leading official representative of art in Britain.

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