Home Arts the jewelery house of the famous Victorian artist has been opened

the jewelery house of the famous Victorian artist has been opened

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When Leighton House, a museum set up in the lavish London home of Victorian artist Frederic Lord Leighton, reopened last October after a two-year, £9.6million rebuild, the first change staff noticed was the sound.

“As we walk down the stairs from our offices, we hear cups clattering in the cafe and people chatting. On school band days, it’s the sound of children playing,” says senior curator Daniel Robbins. It’s completely different from the old rather solemn atmosphere, and it’s delicious.”

Since last October, more than 50,000 visitors have bought tickets for the main museum, surpassing the goals set for an entire year. More than fifty percent of visitors came for the first time.

“The impact of the new spaces is clear: the inhabitants bring lunch to the garden”

The refurbished wing, designed by BDP architects, added 43% more space and was funded by a £2.2m grant from the Heritage Lottery, £1.8m from Friends from the museum and £5.6 million from Kensington and Chelsea council. Within the shell of an unattractive 1920s addition to the house, there is now a new reception area, shop, gallery, cafe, restrooms, educational space and an elevator that allows for the first times for people with disabilities to access the entire building.

There is a fine gallery currently housing the extraordinary golden paintings of Evelyn De Morgan, magnificent ceramics by William De Morgan in the cafe and a film of the homes of great Victorian artists. A display case in the reception area contains a treasured new acquisition, the color sketch of Leighton’s most famous painting, The Fading Heat Haze of Blazing June (1895). All of the new walls are painted in rich, dark colors, echoing the palette of the house itself, to the initial dismay of architects who envisioned a trendy white box, according to Robbins.

Unita mural by Iranian artist Shahrzad Ghaffari

© Janie Airey

Visitors who take the new spiral staircases discover that they are actually inside another work of art. Unit is an 11-meter-tall mural by Iranian artist Shahrzad Ghaffari, a swirl of calligraphy inspired by a 13th-century Rumi poem. Its evocation of cultural unity echoes Robbins’ aspirations to welcome all ages, faiths and walks of life. The new work includes furniture by exiled Syrian workers and Kheit by textile artist Nour Hage.

The impact of the new spaces is immediately clear: local workers bring lunch to the garden, friends from distant parts of London meet there and families come after the school bus.

Leighton, born in Scarborough in 1830 into a wealthy family of doctors, was allowed to train as an artist only on condition of becoming “prominent”. He more than fulfilled this ambition by selling a painting to Queen Victoria at the age of 25 and becoming one of the most famous artists of his generation. He became President of the Royal Academy and was the first artist to receive a peerage.

Visitors marvel at the Arab Hall, precisely the effect intended by Leighton and his architect George Aitchison. Its walls are lined with priceless tiles and mosaics under a golden dome, surrounding a tinkling fountain in a marble basin. Friends including De Morgan and designer Walter Crane helped create a fitting setting for spectacular 16th and 17th century tiles from Syria and Iran. The expensive addition to the relatively modest house caused a stir when it opened in 1882. Leighton said he built it “for something beautiful to look at once in a while”.

Victorians would never have seen what amazes modern visitors: Leighton’s narrow bed. Only one unmarried friend, a young Italian painter, is known to have spent the night, and despite Leighton’s close friendship with actress Dorothy Dene, the model for some of his most voluptuous paintings, Robbins never found no evidence that Leighton had a sexual relationship. relationship. His last words were spoken from that cramped bed to his sisters, who then destroyed all his private papers. This alluring house still holds the secrets of the most public and private Victorian artists.

Local school children enjoy the garden

© RBKC/Amira Ibrahim

How do you bring your local community into the museum?

Daniel Robbins, Senior Curator at Leighton House: One of the main drivers of our project was to change the museum’s relationship with our local community. The renovated wing is free to enter, as is the garden beyond. This large and beautiful space is now immediately visible through the café’s floor-to-ceiling glazing as soon as visitors enter for the first time. With direct access also provided from the learning centre, the garden immediately became a hub of community activity. Schools planted flower beds and explored ecology, biology and botanical design. The garden also provides a magical setting for weekend activity sessions.

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