Saturday, April 17, 2010
Leighton House Museum
I have been wanting to see Frederic Leighton's house in Holland Park for some time, having heard about the amazing Arab room, when I finally decided to go I found out it was closed for major restoration work. But last week it re opened and I went along.
Leighton was born in 1830 he was a painter and president of the Royal Academy in 1878. He commissioned this studio house in 1864 and sitting in his studio, most of the upstairs floor save for a couple of small rooms one a small bedroom, I thought how marvellous to be able to work in such a space. Full of practical details artists will appreciate, a huge under the floor space for storing canvases and other items, a gallery so that he could work on the top of paintings with out having to stand on a ladder, and an narrow door opening direct to the outside for moving the large canvases in and out of the studio.
Some of the massive easels were in there as well as china pots of pigments, apparently Leighton loved the whole process of making colours, indeed the whole process of making art.
Downstairs the Arab Hall is amazing, the walls lined with tiles, mosaics and columns, the design taken from a reception room at La Zisa at Palermo in Sicily. Walter Crane designed the gold mosaic frieze, and William De Morgan worked on the tiles , most from Damascus, but as many were damaged, he saw to the repairs and copies if necessary. There is one panel where parrots perch on a fountain, on the left hand side is De Morgan's work while on the right are the original tiles.
In the centre of the floor is a sunken pond and fountain in black marble, and above a dome. Small windows are set with bright mosaic stained glass and sofas are places on each side of the room.
Though the lighting is quite dark inside the room, the sumptuous tiles in their blues and turquoise glow in the light. Altogether I am sold on the idea of such a room.