Leighton House: London’s ‘Palace of Art’
Leighton House, the home of Royal Academy President Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896), is the most sophisticated and idiosyncratic studio house to survive from Victorian London. Lord Leighton enlisted architect George Aitchison to design a house for him at 2 Holland Park Road in Kensington. Aitchison had never before designed a domestic building, which suited the artist very well: final design was based on Leighton’s ideas, while the execution was by Aitchison.
The design partnership resulted in an elegant building in the Aesthetic style, whose seductive and eccentric, but sophisticated interiors challenge our modern stereotypes about Victorian design. The house features a two-story foyer, built to house Leighton’s collection of 16th century Middle Eastern tiles; an Arab style Hall with more tiles, Moorish wooden latticework and a burbling fountain; an artist’s studio, with a graceful, double-height window; and Leighton’s own bedroom, with a modest, single brass bed. Built over the course of three decades, the house served as the showplace for the art and society of its day, as well as the birthplace of Lord Leighton’s greatest paintings.
The house opened to the public as a gallery in 1929. The museum has on permanent display works of art by John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones and George Frederic Watts, as well as 81 oil paintings by Leighton himself. The house’s remarkable legacy-first, as a home, then, as a museum-reached its latest milestone in 2019, when Leighton House embarked on a major renovation (scheduled for completion in early 2022).
Join Country Life and Vanity Fair contributor Patrick Monahan for an illustrated talk about Leighton’s stunning home, one of London’s lesser-known treasures. Patrick will also talk about the future of the house and show an exclusive preview of the renovations in advance of the house’s Spring 2022 reopening.