Daniel Robbins: Frederic Leighton and his ‘Private Palace of Art’

Daniel Robbins: Frederic Leighton and his ‘Private Palace of Art’


– Good evening. I’m Susan Galassi, Senior
Curator at the Frick Collection. And I’m delighted to
welcome you this evening to this evening’s lecture
by Daniel Robbins, the second in a series of programs held in connection with the exhibition Leighton’s Flaming June,
on view at the Frick through September 6th, on loan from the Museo de
Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico. Flaming June is the masterpiece
of the late 19th century British artist Frederic Leighton. It appears here with an extraordinary preparatory oil sketch, generously lent by a private collector. It’s with particular pleasure
that we welcome Mr. Robbins, the senior curator of
Leighton House in London, Frederic Leighton’s
former home and studio, which is now a museum
dedicated to his life and work. Mr. Robbins was a collaborator
in our presentation of Flaming June, generously
sharing his expertise and making available
the museum’s resources at every step of the way. It was with particular pleasure that I had looking at him with the many preparatory drawings for Flaming June, which are in the collection
of Leighton House. Before coming to Leighton House, Mr. Robbins studied at the Glasgow Academy and at the University
of Warwick in Coventry. In 1990, following his
studies, he took part in a project to build a house in Glasgow that had been designed in 1901 by the architect Charles
Rennie Mackintosh. The House for an Art Lover,
which opened in 1996, is now a thriving exhibition
event and studio space. From there, Mr. Robbins became a curator for the Glasgow Museums,
where he was responsible for the Macintosh collections and the furniture and
woodwork collections. Among the exhibitions he organized was a major show on Mackintosh that traveled in 1997 from Glasgow to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum and to the Metropolitan Museum. For the past 16 years,
Mr. Robbins has served as Senior Curator of both Leighton House and another house museum in London known as 18 Stafford
Terrace, the former home of the 19th century
illustrator and cartoonist, Edward Linley Sambourne. In this position, he is
responsible for the care and operation of both houses
and their collections, and he oversees the exhibition
programming and acquisitions. Under his leadership,
Leighton House underwent a major refurbishment that was carried out between 2008 and 2010, and it earned awards
from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the European Union
of Cultural Heritage. In addition to his management
of the institutions, Mr. Robbins has organized
more than 40 exhibitions at Leighton House and produced
numerous publications, including a book on the
history and design of the house and Frederic Leighton’s
life and work there. This will be the subject
of his lecture tonight. From his house museum to ours, please join me in
welcoming Daniel Robbins. (applause) – Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Susan, for that
very generous welcome. Before starting, I just
wanted to say that, for anybody who has Leighton’s
best interests at heart, to see his Flaming June
exhibited here so beautifully in the surroundings of
the Frick Collection and presented to a New York audience not absolutely for the first
time, as I’ve just learned this evening, really
is a wonderful moment. And I’d like to congratulate
Susan and the whole team here on making this happen. And then, from a personal point of view, just to extend my gratitude
for this invitation and this wonderful opportunity to talk a little bit more about Leighton, and specifically, Leighton in connection with the wonderful house
that he built in London that has now become Leighton House Museum, and which I was rather scared to hear I’d been for 16 years the custodian. I wanted to start with this, four images of Leighton, if you like, the four ages of Leighton, that, in themselves, suggest something of the trajectory of his career. The image on the left, the
first recorded oil by him, sadly now lost, painted in 1845 when Leighton is 15, 16
years old, in Florence. His sister felt it was
not a good likeness, and I think you can see
he’s rather overpreoccupied with his reflection. But still, there is a sign
here of youthful promise. And it’s significant because it coincides with the moment when Leighton
first announced to his father, a doctor, of his intention
of becoming an artist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the
father was not very welcoming with that idea, but then
relented on the basis that Leighton could become an artist if he endeavored to
become an eminent artist. (audience laughs softly) The trouble for Leighton
was that his father lived to be 92, only predeceasing
him by four years. So he had a very long period of time in which to demonstrate quite
how eminent he’d become. If we move on to the second
image, painted in 1852, Leighton aged 22 years old, probably painted to mark the
end of his formal training at the Stadel Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt. Already his accomplishment
as a painter evident in the wonderful
representation of his sleeve, and of course his palette
prominently displayed. And there’s something, too,
in the artful arrangement of his hair carefully center parted, of his consciousness of
himself as an artist. And I think the presentation
of himself as an artist was something that never left him and is very apparent
in all the photographs, or many of the photographs
that exist of him. The third image jumps forward 20 years, not this time a
self-portrait but a portrait by his great friend and near neighbor, George Frederic Watts, which we’ll look at in a little more detail
later on in the lecture. But Leighton very much in his prime here, 41 years old, a full Royal Academician, increasingly involved in
Royal Academy affairs. This portrait was
presented to him by Watts and remained in his
possession up until his death. And then, 10 years further on again, and the portrait on the
right commissioned in 1880 by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to take its place in
the wonderful sequence of artists’ self-portraits there. Leighton, now Sir Frederic
Leighton, the President of the Royal Academy, here, his medal of office
tucked inside his gown, signifying his recent award
of an honorary doctorate from Oxford University
as a doctor of civil law, which itself echoes
Reynolds’ self-portrait. And one scholar has
suggested that Leighton, whether consciously or subconsciously, has integrated or merged the features of Michelangelo into his own. And there is certainly
evidence through his house of a very close association or affinity with the work Michelangelo,
not only as an artist but as the idea of an artist. And as you can see, he has
elected to paint himself against the backdrop of a
frieze, the Elgin Marbles, the Parthenon frieze, which was built into his studio house. And he was to become yet more eminent. He lived for 16 years after
that portrait was painted. And at the time of his death in 1896, he had just been ennobled
by Queen Victoria. He remains the only British artist to have received that accolade. He’s also one of the
shortest-lived peers of the Realm in that he died before
he’d actually made it to the House of Lords. And, in fact, the press
speculated as to whether or not he should be referred to
as Lord Leighton or not. And to give an indication of the position he’d established for himself, Queen Victoria personally intervened and issued a statement to
say that in her opinion, which really was the
only one that counted, he should be referred to as Lord Leighton. He was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral in a ceremony that was
effectively a national event, the streets lined with
people, and he was interred in the crypt immediately
adjacent to the plot of Sir Christopher Wren,
the architect of St. Paul’s. And in the North Aisle
of St. Paul’s Cathedral, there remains a very
prominent monument to him by the sculptor Thomas Brock. So he really, in the
course of his lifetime, been able to establish
an unrivaled position at the heart of the artistic
establishment of his time. And it’s not difficult to see a parallel in the evolution of his house. If we look at the slide,
the image below on the left is the house as it was first
built, it’s first incarnation in the mid-1860s. And then on the right-hand side, what had become a private palace of art, with that house now
subsumed in later additions, both on its east side and its west side. The house had only just been completed, because over the 30 years
that Leighton lived there, he was almost constantly
fiddling with the house in some way, either extending it or embellishing it in some way, the last of those additions only completed months before this drawing
was made and published, as you can see from the
caption, in a French architectural periodical,
and recording the house in its final incarnation. So the simple thing to say
is that somehow this house, Leighton’s house, embodied him, that he’d in some way manifested himself through its construction. But in fact, I think it was
a more subtle relationship between himself and his house. But that doesn’t take away the fact that it was clearly
identified as something that was of central importance to him. His sisters referred to it as an object of his loving care, a joy to
him until he lay down to die, terms you might think
might refer to a child rather than to this house that he had created. This, perhaps, indicates one
of the oddities of the house. It only has one bedroom. There is no guest accommodation within it. This signals perhaps the
first, which we’ll look at in more detail, the fist
indication of this tension there is within the house between
its private function and the public access, which was always part of its conception. So he occupied this bedroom,
and it was the room, in fact, in which he died. And it’s just the first
indication of the extent to which this house
was so personal to him. It served a number of functions. Principally, it was his work space. All the pictures of his
mature career were painted in the studio on the
fist floor of the house. His whole life was governed
by great self-discipline and great rigor in the
way that he maintained and used his time. And that particularly applied to his work. He would work every day. Although we know he had
some studio assistants, he never acknowledged it and stated that he always worked alone. He would work on four or
five compositions at once, all of which were underpinned
by an absolute rigor in the use of drawing that underpinned the whole of his artistic
practice and production. And we have within the
museum 700 of his drawings that give an indication of
how central that was to him. So, it was a work space. It was also a display space. And this is something that has become in more and more focus over recent years, and that is the extent to which the design and decoration of the
house responded to objects that were in Leighton’s possession, his collections of fine
and decorative art. It was certainly not the
case that he built it and then looked for things with which he could
furnish and decorate it. He absolutely had a sense of
what was going to go where and how the house would be organized in relation to his collections. And this was done in a very
subtle and sophisticated way in several instances and
climaxed in his construction of the Arab Hall, which
we’ll look at in more detail. The third element was as
a space for entertainment. And this took several forms. Its most basic was that
Leighton was at home on a Sunday afternoon, conversing, as was described, in a princely manner, moving from one language to another. He spoke five languages fluently. So he was at home on a Sunday afternoon, there were two key set
piece events in the calendar that the house really came into its own. One was Show Sunday, where the pictures for that year’s Royal Academy
exhibition were unveiled for the first time, and the second was a musical recital that
was held in the spring every year in the studio. But then it was accessible
in all kinds of other ways. Leighton himself could be persuaded to give a guided tour of his own house. This image here suggests
a kind of open day, where women here have come to view, this group of women have come to view the recently completed Arab Hall. Young artists with letters of introduction from colleagues of Leighton
or friends of Leighton, there are many accounts of them turning up at the house and Leighton taking the time to show them through and welcome them. And he also participated in a scheme whereby what was described as the poor were given admittance to the house to view the ground floor of
it in Leighton’s absence, but with the idea that this
was to their betterment and the appreciation of beauty could only be a good thing. So it was always conceived with the idea that it would be, to some
degree, a public space. And there was one particular
segment or audience that were particularly welcome, and that was the press, or writer on art, who were invited to the house
or would make an appointment with Leighton, they would
be shown around by him. And by looking at these
different accounts of the house, it’s quite clear that
Leighton had a kind of tour which he revealed the same
objects from his collection, seems to have said more
or less the same thing about them to each journalist. And what would result in
this is a typical example, published in the Strand in 1892, would be something that
has been compared to, not by me but by somebody else, as a kind of Hello magazine
before Hello magazine, in that the artist is
using their environment. The house which they
have created as a means of projecting an identity
or confirming an identity about themselves, and in
which their collections and their choices and the
way they have designed and decorated the house become central to the creation of that image. And it’s certainly the
case that Leighton was very well disposed to, we know from the number of
articles that were published not only in the U.K. but in
the States and the Continent, even as far afield as Australia, that the house was used to some extent as a means of projecting this identity. And then, the final function of it is the, in many ways, the most intriguing. And this is where a private palace of art becomes a private home, because Leighton lived in this house, as far as we know, for 30 years alone. And this image rather poignantly shows his dining table laid just for himself. He traveled a great deal,
but as far as we know, he always traveled alone. He ate out at his club, at the Athenaeum. And there are a number
of comments which suggest he always ate alone. So there is this very
solitary aspect to him. And Leighton, in fact, appeared
in a fictionalized form in two works of literature at this time, one by Benjamin Disraeli. He appears as as Mr. Phoebus, an artist, in the novel Lothair. And the in a Henry James short story called The Private Life,
there is a character called Lord Mellifont, who is commonly perceived to be Leighton. There is speculation about this character, Lord Mellifont, about,
does he exist in private, or is he just a perfect
performer when in public? And there is a sentence
in that short story which says, “How was he at
home, and what did he do “when he was alone?” And I think this absolutely is a question we can ask of Leighton
once the door had shut in his private palace of art. The talk will effectively
take the form of a tour through the house and trying to explore how those themes we’ve just looked at were played out in its
conception and construction and in the way the collection
was arranged within it. So it’s a tour with some
digressions along the way. But first, I wanted just to
paint in a little picture of the Leighton family. So here he is, the
second of three children, two further children had died in infancy, of his father, a doctor,
Frederic Septimus Leighton, who, although trained as a
doctor, hardly practiced, partly because of being hard of hearing, and then his mother,
Augusta, who suffered clearly from ill health throughout his childhood and died relatively young. And the need for the family
to seek a better climate in which to live motivated, or was one of the motivations, for the
very peripatetic lifestyle that they enjoyed as Leighton grew up. The figure who’s missing, and is perhaps the most significant figure
in the Leighton story, and that, in fact, is his
grandfather, James Leighton, who had emigrated to St. Petersburg and ended up being the private physician and accoucheur to the
Imperial Russian royal family. In that capacity, he was also made, in an honorary position,
the Chief Medical Officer for the Imperial Russian navy and became a Privy
Counsellor in St. Petersburg. And so, it was in St. Petersburg that Leighton’s father, Frederic,
spent the early years after his marriage, and it
was there that Alexandra, Leighton’s sister, was born, Alexandra being the name of the Tzarina who was her godmother. Leighton was then born back in England in Scarborough on the
northeast coast of England, where, again, the family had retreated for the sake of his mother’s health. And then Augusta, the younger sister, born in London in 1835. Recently, I’ve been
transcribing the journal that Augusta kept for the year 1857, when the family are living in Bath, that we have in the
collection at Leighton House. And it’s very revealing
as a little snapshot of this family, presumably
at the kind of age, we don’t know when these
photographs where taken, but in their early 20s. And several things come across that are, I think, quite revealing. The first is what a very
intellectual family it was. Leighton’s father had given up, as I say, medical practice and seems
to have devoted himself to the education of his children, not always altogether supportively. There is some correspondence
where Leighton, as a young artist, tries
to engage his father in Hegel’s writings on aesthetics. And his father more or less says to him, “Don’t bother trying to understand that. “It is not really,
you’re not in a position “to understand the
context of those writings. “You should just concentrate
on being an artist.” And there are references
in Augusta’s journal that suggest the father is,
if not a tyrannical figure, certainly a stern figure. She compares the life of
provincial families in Bath with that of her own family. While rather condescending
about their intellectual pretensions, she sees the environment that they live in as a
warm, supportive family and contrasts it with her own. The second thing she makes great play of is Leighton, Frederic, as
really the star of the family, as the golden boy. Here, at the time she’s keeping
her journal, he’s in Paris. But he’s clearly seen by his sisters as a wonderful brother in every respect. And then the final thing
that is a particular concern of hers is about her own identity, in that she struggles
with whether to decide she is English or, in fact,
she wakes up some days and feels very German. And this is for a particular reason. That is, the family
effectively grew up in Germany. They had left the United Kingdom in the early 1840s and
then settled in Frankfurt in 1846, buying a large house there. And it was in 1846 that Leighton enrolled at the Stadel Kunstinstitut,
at the art school there, where he came under the guidance, and what he described
as the indelible seal, of his painting master, von Steinle, Edward von Steinle, a Nazarene artist, and that the influence of
the Nazarene brotherhood would very much in play at the art school at the time that Leighton was there. And on the left is the
work that is currently at Leighton House, part of the
Leighton House collections, that Leighton produced
almost as his diploma piece, as his final work before
leaving the Stadel. He took as his subject
the death of Brunelleschi, the architect whose dying
wish was to be taken to see the dome of the
cathedral in Florence as his great work, depicted here in the background, Leighton taking artistic
license sufficient to change the red roof to gray. And Leighton used his
father as the graying figure in the background, and
his sister Alexandra in the foreground within the composition, which takes the form of an altarpiece. I should mention that no lesser figure than David Hockney, who lives very close to Leighton House in London, once stood me in front of
this picture and told me how the perspective was entirely wrong and the space which is occupied by the group at the front does not tally with the
architectural setting behind them. I felt at the time unable to
question such an authority. But this work was painted by Leighton apparently in secret, as it were. He wouldn’t let anybody see it, and, I think, quite
typically, then revealed it to the unsuspecting fellow students who were all immediately
amazed and impressed by his accomplishment. It’s a very substantial
work, almost three meters by two meters. And it was bought by Leighton House from the son of von Steinle,
who must have been left it by Leighton when he left Germany to make his way to Rome. And it was with the pointed
intention of going to Rome to paint the pictures
with which he would launch his professional career. And he embarked, and again
I think it’s revealing of Leighton’s personality,
not on two pictures that were relatively
modest in their ambition in order to get the ball rolling. In fact, he embarked on
two very substantial, complex compositions. What you see here is the color sketch for one of those, and that was entitled Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is carried in Procession through
the streets of Florence. That’s actually its abbreviated title, because it then goes on
to list all the artists who are in the procession. And the second work was The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets over the Dead Bodies of Romeo and Juliet. And it’s clear from those
that encountered Leighton, again, still in his early 20s in Rome, that they were enormously
enamored and impressed by him as a personality, and equally by his facility as an artist. And it is as though
Leighton really laid out and made everybody very
aware of his abilities. He produced this wonderful
series of drawings. This is just three of more than 20 very fine pencil studies that were made for almost every head
within the procession. And in fact, he never
again produced such fine preparatory studies in this way. He then produced the colored sketch, and this was added to the
collections at Leighton House when it was bought here
in New York in 2012, and I know some of those in the audience played a instrumental part
in making that happen. And Leighton havered over
which of these two pictures he would send to London
and which he would send to the Exposition
Universelle in Paris in 1855. In the end, he decided to
send the Chimabue painting to London to the Royal Academy. And the idea that the
Academy would give over 17 feet of wall space
to a work by an artist who nobody knew of, and in fact, there is a very interesting letter written by Dante Gabriel
Rossetti once the picture has gone on exhibition, in
which he tries very hard not to like it, but in the end can’t quite bring himself not to like it. So the idea the Academy would give over this amount of wall space to
a work by an unknown artist was a long shot. But in fact, it was not
only selected but well hung. And on the first day of the
exhibition, Queen Victoria, prompted by Prince Albert, bought it. So it remains one of the great debuts of any British artists, appearing from nowhere and his first work
being immediately bought by the queen. But Leighton did not then follow this up by coming back from Rome to London and picking up his career immediately. Instead, he diverted and went to Paris. And this was Paris of the
era when Whistler was there, Val Princep, who would become
his neighbor, was there, the group of artists
who were fictionalized through George Du Maurier’s Trilby. But Leighton very
definitely did not take up with the British contingent, and instead sought out the
company of French artists. He met Ingres, he met Delacroix, and this is Delacroix’s studio. He met Corot. He met Manet. And he met Ary Scheffer. And you can see the painting
of Ary Scheffer’s studio, significant because Scheffer
organized musical recitals within this studio space. I think that helped form Leighton’s ideas around the studio that
he would one day build, because between Rome and Paris, he had innumerable
opportunities to see the way that artists combined their
living and working space. And I think all the time,
he was absorbing these ideas as to how he might conceive
of his own studio house. But in fact, the years
after that Chimabue trimph were the most difficult
of Leighton’s career. This was the work that followed it up. At least, this is the color sketch for it. It’s The Triumph of Music, and it was an absolute critical disaster, universally compared as inferior to the Chimabue picture. Leighton is believed to have
then taken it off its stretcher and hidden it away, such
was his disappointment at its reception. This is, as I say, the
color sketch, which is the only record of the painting. And this started what really
almost appears to have been a campaign against him
from within the ranks of the Royal Academy, quite possibly because he was seen as a
foreign-trained artist. And in some way, this disgruntled the established Royal Academicians. So there was then a series of pictures. Nothing was exhibited at
the Royal Academy in 1857. This picture, Count
Paris, exhibited in 1858, but hung over a doorway so it was virtually invisible. In the following year,
1959, he exhibited a series of pictures of the famous
Roman model Nana Risi, of which this, Pevonia, has become one of the absolute icons
of Victorian painting of the aesthetic movement. But because they were not
these large history subjects, they weren’t considered
to be, or taken with as entirely with the weight
that they might have done. The following year, he exhibited just a single work, a landscape. He virtually never exhibited
any landscape ever again. And there is a sense, as
these pictures emerged, of him rather casting around
as his identity as an artist is questioned, and looking for a path that he can really follow. This is his 1861 submission. Eight pictures were
submitted, two were rejected. This was Lieder Ohne
Worte, another picture that plays a central role in
the birth of the development of the aesthetic movement, and a subjectless picture
of this androgynous youth whose extraordinary drapery is against an architectural setting, very unspecific in its
geographical location. And then a further work
from 1862, Odalisque. As Leighton faced these
rejections and difficulties, John Everett Millais, Holman
Hunt and Rossetti himself, his Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries, all came to his defense and argued that he was being badly treated. So despite the wonderful
richness of these images, it was not until 1864, with the exhibition of Dante in Exile at the Royal Academy, which was bought by the
art dealer Ernest Gambart for just over 1,000 Pounds,
that seemed to give Leighton both the financial confidence to embark on building his studio, but
also led to his election as an Associate of the Royal Academy. So that Chimabue picture was
virtually a decade before this. And so, it was a very
difficult and slow process for his actual acceptance by the Academy. And of course, the irony of
this is that he would become such a champion of the
Academy as its President and would be seen to
embody it in later life. But he certainly had a
difficult time early on. It was clear that he had the
intention of building a house when he felt he was in
a position to do so. And that started in 1864. And the setting of it and the
site of it was very specific. It was all bound up with
an extraordinary household that had evolved at this house,
called Little Holland House. This was the dower house
for the Jacobean mansion of Holland House in
Kensington, west of London. It acted as the dower house,
a rambling, as you can see, rather picturesque house
which was leased in 1851 by a couple called Toby and Sarah Princep. Sarah Princep’s maiden name was Pattle, and the Princeps and Pattles
had a long association with the administration of India. Toby had been an Indian civil servant and retired back to this country and took the lease on this house. Sarah was one of the five Pattle sisters. Another of the sisters was
Julia Margaret Cameron, the photographer, but
they were all renowned for their beauty, their erudition, and their slight Bohemian
tinge, which was expressed in their dresses, these very
self-consciously artistic, loose-fitting dresses. So that was one of the attractions
of Little Holland House. A second was George Frederic Watts, the artist who’s shown
here with Sophia Dalrymple, of of the Pattle sisters, who,
in this famous expression, “came to stay for the weekend “and lived there for 25 years.” He sort of became the artist-in-residence. And there’s a wonderful comment by Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
writing to Edward Burne-Jones, in which he describes this household. He says, “You must know these people, Ned. “They are remarkable people. “You will see a painter there. “He paints a queer sort of
picture about God and creation.” And this is no doubt an allusion to Watts. And here we have one of the frescoes which is part of the collections
at Leighton House Museum, which Watts used to decorate the interiors of Little Holland House. And when Burne-Jones became ill at the end of the 1850s, he
retreated and convalesced as part of this household. So it became a great meeting place for London’s literary and cultural society. And no doubt Leighton, Frederic Leighton, although still living abroad, became aware of this household, and seems through it to have become aware of two plots of land that were being offered for sale nearby. This is a map that shows the two arrows where Leighton was to embark
on building his house, and immediately to its
left, where Val Princep, the son of Toby and
Sarah, who’d been trained by George Frederic Watts, he also embarked on building a studio
house at the same moment. Little Holland House was just
off this map to the north, and so you can see immediately to the rear of Leighton’s intended house was, in fact, the working farm of the Holland estate, which gives an idea of
still the very rural aspect, or the rural setting, in
which Leighton was embarking on building his home. And here are these two neighbors. They would remain neighbors for 30 years. On the left, Val Princep,
photographed by his cousin as Our Royal Cousin. And in fact, he makes a
very convincing Henry VIII. Perhaps more boxer than
artist, you might think. And then, on the right,
this wonderful cartoon of Leighton by Tissot, from 1872, where he’s depicted,
really, as the embodiment of the aesthete, with his
prominent lily in his buttonhole, his luxuriant hair and beard, although still slightly
effete almost, and solitary, in this suggestion of the Three Graces hovering in the distance
but Leighton keeping himself rather removed from them. But the two remained great friends throughout the 30 years
that they were neighbors. And in 1884, Leighton
was best man to Princep at his marriage to Florence Leyland, the daughter of Frederic
Leyland, the great Liverpool ship owner and great art collector. And of course, Whistler’s
wonderful portrait of Leyland’s wife Florence
is on display outside, next to Flaming June. And the differences in their
character and their backgrounds is exemplified in the
architects they chose to build their houses. Princep commissioned Philip Webb, who had already, through the
building of this extraordinary Red House for William
Morris at Bexleyheath to the east of London in 1858, had established himself as the leading, the principal architect associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, quoting, but in a very innovative way, traditional or vernacular architecture, with its steep, pitched
roofs, brick construction. And you can see something
of this was carried over into Princep’s house,
here on the illustration on the top left. This is the house in
its first incarnation, very picturesque, with, as you can see, numerous points of
reference to the Red House. Following his marriage
to Leyland’s daughter, he in fact effectively ruined his house by adding an enormous
extension at the back to contain a music room and a ballroom, as though every artist
needed such a thing. So, while Princep was associating himself with an emerging Arts
and Crafts tradition, Leighton went a very different route. He selected for his
architect somebody called George Aitchison, seen here on the right. Leighton had met Aitchison in Rome, when Leighton was working
on his Chimabue picture. And, in fact, Aitchison
recounted how he posed for a sleeve of one of the
figures in the painting. Aitchison had never built a house before. He came from a family of architects, but that practice specialized,
as you can see here, in one of Aitchison earlier works, in warehouses, wharves, docks, railway architecture, so entirely removed in background from a studio house. But Aitchison would
remain the only architect to be involved in all the
phases of the development of Leighton House hereafter. And I think, in fact, from
Leighton’s perspective, his lack of credentials, if you like, as an architect was in his favor because it allowed Leighton to become very involved himself in every aspect of the design and decoration of the house. And it was a theme that was picked up by other architects working for artists, the sort of duality of having a client who is more open, more
adventurous in their outlook but has very strong views of what the house might look like, and the difficulty of
juggling those two things. But by associating himself,
I think, with Aitchison, Leighton was making sure that
he could not be pigeonholed very easily in the way that
this house was going to be conceived and designed. Aitchison’s career was
entirely transformed by his association with Leighton. Not that it led to any other studio house commissions. What it did lead to was a
series of what must have been extraordinary interior schemes, for very wealthy clients
in central London. Many of these clients
were already collectors of Leighton’s work. And a number of them became
collaborative commissions. So we see here the earliest
of them, from 1869, this was for a client,
Percey Windham, a politician and collector. This is of the staircase of the house where Leighton contributed
five life-sized panels. These are just two of
them which you can see were set against this dark blue background at the top of the
staircase, which must have really been spectacular. And then a second great
patron of Leighton’s, a banker called Stewart Hodgson. James Stewart Hodgson commissioned a house in South Audley Street
in Mayfair in London. And again, Aitchison was commissioned to work on the interiors. And Leighton rather
reluctantly, it has to be said, was commissioned to, or
agreed to, contribute two friezes to the drawing room interiors, as you can see here. So, from Aitchison’s
perspective, his association with Leighton was
entirely a beneficial one. He became, when Leighton was the President of the Royal Academy,
Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy and
ultimately did become the President of the RIBA. And so, here is Leighton’s
house in its first incarnation. In fact, it remained the
case throughout the time that Leighton lived there, the comment was how unrevealing of itself the
house was from the exterior. In fact, it was set in quite a modest lane running across the bottom
of the Holland estate. And numerous descriptions of the house comment on the fact that
you could approach it and have no inclination or understanding of what was to evolve behind the facade. And it’s perhaps fanciful or
stretches a point to suggest there’s something of
Leighton’s personality in that, this idea of a rather unknowable exterior, but once you get beyond that, this extraordinarily rich individual. The other thing just to point out here is, on the right-hand side,
you can just make out, I think if I point, this. And this was the doorway for the model. And it’s one of the specific things about not just this studio house but
many of these studio houses that were built in
London at the same time, is the great lengths that the architect and the owner went to to manage the way the model came in and out of the house. They didn’t go through the front door or through the servants’ door. They had a dedicated third entrance, only for the use of the model,
so that an unaccompanied young woman coming and
going through that door could not be mistaken for any other, coming to the house for any other purpose than for modeling for the artist. And in many of the studio
houses built at this time, they would enter a
staircase that would lead into the studio and then out of it again. So they had no way of coming into contact with any other part of the household. The other, I suppose, initial question is, how far was Leighton involved
in the design of this? There are certainly
descriptions where it says that every brick was subject to his approval as it went up. And he certainly was
interested in architecture. But whether he quite
deserved the gold medal for architecture awarded by the RIBA to him in 1894 is rather doubtful. It’s a wonderful citation,
where the RIBA says they’re awarding him the gold medal, which is the highest accolade
a professional architect could receive, on the grounds
of what a great architect he would have been if he’d been one, (audience laughs) which seems good going to me. So this is the street facade,
and the immediate contrast with the reverse, the garden facade, facing north, and very
Greek in inspiration, dominated by the studio
window on the first floor, which was actually later changed from stone construction to cast iron. And despite its artistic pretensions, perhaps it’s not all
entirely possible to forget that image of the warehouse
that appeared earlier on. And Aitchison, like so
many of his generation of architects, were really
wrestling with the idea of what was the appropriate
style for the age in which they lived, and understood that the simple rehearsal of classical motifs or Gothic ornament was no longer really valid. And Aitchison wrote about the idea that, in the end, buildings will simply become constructed of glass and iron. And there is something in
his construction of this. We know that, when a
later addition was added, one of Leighton’s
neighbors, a fellow artist commented to somebody that the foundations were sufficient to hold
up the Eiffel Tower. I think there was, and it’s
played out in how robust and how strong the house is today, that it was built by somebody who certainly knew a
lot about construction. But there was immediately this contrast between the exterior of the
house and the interiors. As it was first planned, you
entered down a narrow corridor that then opened out
into the staircase hall at the heart of the house. There’s two things to point out here. One is, how eclectic the collections were that Leighton had already assembled. This is from an architectural magazine or journal published in 1876. You can see in the far
wall a collection of tiles that he presumably had collected on his first trip to Turkey in 1867, a Japanese lantern
hanging from the ceiling, a cast of Narcissus from
Pompeii on the left, a Turkish marriage chest
converted into a seat on the staircase, and then,
dominating the staircase, with a frame built into the wall, you can just see the bottom of a copy, not by Leighton but by a Parisian artist, of the Creation of Adam, part
of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. And I think there’s no accident there, that that piece of space
was dedicated from the start to that work so that,
as you climb the stairs to approach the studio
where Leighton would be, this was a not altogether
subtle suggestion of the kind of art that you
perhaps might have in mind as you approached the studio. So this great eclectic taste,
as Leighton as a collector, but then a very specific
architectural setting. We know that Leighton loved Venetian art. In one of the many
trips he made to Venice, there is an account of
him visiting interiors, Venetian domestic interiors. And here it seems to be that he quoted, between himself and Aitchison, the staircase at the rear
of the Palazzo Gentani, a mid-15th century palazzo
which follows the model of having the staircase as an open space at the back of the house. And you can just see in
the basic arrangement of the forms here, the fact
that Leighton’s staircase was lit from above by
a very large skylight, that that is perhaps what
this was being based on, something very specific that suggests that this is about the vision of somebody precisely being realized. If you move, then, beyond the staircase, you then entered the
dining room of the house. Leighton always, according to
one of the early biographies of him, sat on a chair slightly
higher than everybody else’s when he was entertaining here. But what’s significant
is that the little sketch at bottom right, and I’m afraid it’s not a great slide, is in a
sketch book of Leighton’s at the Royal Academy. And what it shows, it
clearly, this elevation, the fireplace elevation of this room, where he has sketched
in these arched niches and sketched in that there are going to be these plates arranged
in this circular pattern within those niches. So from the very start,
the conception is a means of displaying part of his collection. And the fact that red, as
all the contemporary accounts of the house confirmed, red was the dominant color, as you can see in the top right slide, of this interior, suggests that it was
conceived decoratively, that the red would be
a foil for the display of the blue and white ceramics that were going to be put on display in it. The other thing to point
out is this large sideboard that stands against the
wall on the right-hand side. This was one of a suite of furniture, seven pieces of furniture,
designed specifically for the interiors of the house by George Aitchison and Leighton. And they were inlaid with the motifs, inlaid in mother of pearl and ivory, with the same motifs that were
inlaid into the architraves of the doors within the house. So they were very specific
to the conception of it. Very sadly, they were
sold, like everything else, as I’ll explain in a minute. But we have, very
frustratingly, in the archive of the museum a letter, not offering back some of this original furniture, but in fact, a letter declining the offer of some of this original
furniture in the 1920s on the grounds that it was too big and no longer served
any practical purpose. And it’s never been seen since. But that does introduce the moment to explain what happened after Leighton died in 1896. He left everything to his two sisters that we saw earlier. And he seems to have made them aware of bequests that he wished to make. They initially thought that
they would try and sell the house to raise money
to settle the bequests that he intended to make, and they would sell it intact,
with all of the collections arranged within it. They couldn’t find a buyer to do that. So the only option then was to try and sell the house at auction. It didn’t sell at auction,
and the auctioneer wrote a rather apologetic note, but saying, “Don’t blame me, but it’s
only got one bedroom. “So how can I sell that?”
(audience laughs softly) Then the only option left was to sell the contents of the house. So at Christie’s in the
summer after Leighton died, an eight-day sale entirely
dispersed the collections that he had built up and which he had formed this house to contain. So it remains a great tragedy in many ways that that is what happened. It got worse. The house was very
significantly bomb damaged twice in the Second World War,
and the image on the left shows just what a bad state it was in. Fortunately, the damage was
at this end of the house and not at the Arab Hall end,
which you’ll see in a minute. On the right-hand side is the dining room as it appeared in its
postwar reincarnation. When the house was restored after the war, it was done simply to make it functional and usable again, and
in no way to replicate as it had originally appeared. We move from the dining room next door into the drawing room of the house. And there’s a immediate contrast, both in its decorative elements and in the aspect
of Leighton’s collection that was presented here. So where we had a red room, with his display of iznic ceramics, we move next door into the
drawing room of the house, where he displayed his collection
of landscape paintings. And central to those were the four panels of The Times of the Day by Corot that he had acquired just at the point that he was building the house. And if not the first, he
was amongst the very first British collectors to
acquire works by Corot and display them. And it’s possible that the house was built so that these four panels, as
you can see in the photograph, two to the left of the
window and two to the right, that this room was designed
to accommodate them. And even, it’s not fanciful,
I think, to suggest that that bay window, where
you are very conscious of the passage of the sun, that the pictures were installed
in relation to that window so that, as the times of the day passed, you were conscious of that in the way the room was lit. Certainly the sketch by Delacroix that Leighton owned, at the top left, it’s no accident that there’s
a circular ceiling there and that this work was installed
in that circular ceiling. So again, it’s finding
the house was being formed to display particular
aspects of his collection. This is how that room looks now. And we commissioned as part
of the restoration work an artist to make copies
of these four Corots. The originals have just
entered the collections, having been on loan there for a long time, of the National Gallery. But we thought this was
very important to do because Leighton always referred to them when he was taking visitors round. But also, when we were
researching the textiles in order to reinstate
them within the house, somebody was helping with that found an order book which suggested that there was an order for Leighton for a baize fabric. And many descriptions of this room suggest it was a fabric that lined
the walls, not a wallpaper. Well, this order book
had been transcribed. So it says, order for Leighton, and it says, “color to
match color of carrots.” Well, of course the transcription is wrong and what they mean in Corot’s. And so again, it’s the
idea that the color scheme, the decorative scheme,
is being inspired by, or relates to, the keynotes
contained within the paintings, and that there is a
consideration of them together. We move, then, through
into the Narcissus Hall, and this is the later
addition to the house, built a little over a
decade after the first house that we saw earlier had been completed. This was the linking space, now we refer to it as the Narcissus Hall, then it was referred to as
the corridor that connected the staircase hall through
to the Arab Hall beyond. I show this just to show it cocooned as the restoration work was done, and then, as it now appears, with these wonderful peacock blue
tiles by the potter, ceramicist, William De Morgan that were installed within the house. And again, there’s a connection here between the location of
this sculpture of Narcissus, and we saw in that earlier image, Leighton owned it before
he built this extension, and it seems that this space
was conceived and created as a way in which that
sculpture could find a particular setting, in that a number of
descriptions of the time refer to the fact that, and
you can see it in this image, how the blue tiles are reflected in this silvery-golden ceiling, to create a mirrored, watery effect, and that this was a deliberate reference to the story of Narcissus, of the youth who catches his own
reflection in a pool of water and falls in love with his own reflection. So that that is what is going on here, a staging for this particular item. Of course, the problem is
that scholars no longer think that this is Narcissus. So the whole thing has rather
fallen apart at that point. We then move through to what this house, Leighton House, is best
known for, the Arab Hall, built between 1877 and 1881. And despite its fame, it
is, in fact, still something of a puzzle in that
Leighton didn’t ever write, or if he did, it doesn’t survive, anything about why he built it or how he went about building it. All that we know is the
comment that was reported secondhand at a dinner party, where Leighton apparently
said he had built it for the sake of something
beautiful to look at once in a while. A more aesthetic-informed statement you would struggle to find. But we know in 1867,
he traveled to Turkey, in 1868, he went to Egypt, and in 1873, he was in Damascus. And there is a detailed account
of his visit to Damascus, and it’s clear that on these expeditions, he was collecting material for his collections. But was he collecting that material because he had in mind
the idea of building this, or, as is suggested and
again in an early biography, that he was sitting upstairs in his studio with Aitchison, his architect, and they’re surrounded by piles of tiles. And it’s Aitchison who says to Leighton, “You should build
something to put these in.” And he sort of says, “Well, okay then.” And it seems very improbable that it was quite a spontaneous as that. But once they embarked on it, it’s clear that Leighton very definitely had a model in mind. And that model was not where
you might think it to be. This is a painting that
has only just surfaced, by Leighton, of the Capella Paletina in Palermo in Sicily, with these wonderful Byzantine mosaics from the middle of the 12th century. So this is only just appeared, and is confirmation that
Leighton was in Sicily, although we don’t actually know how often and precisely when he was there. But it’s easy to see that
that may have informed his thinking, because there is a very definite Sicilian
model for the Arab Hall, and that is this Palace, called Laziza, a little later than the Capella Paletina, but again a Sicilio-Norman palace. And it has within it a central hall that has the same plan as the Arab Hall, it has a gold mosaic frieze, as you can see in the far distance, has columns in the angles of the walls, as you can see here, has a pool in its center. So all the elements that
you see in the Arab Hall are present here. And, in fact, Walter Crane,
the very versatile designer Walter Crane, in his memoirs, said that he was shown a photograph of the mosaics from Laziza and asked to do something similar. And you can see how similar that was here, in this comparison. So here are the original
mosaics from Laziza, and here is Walter Crane’s interpretation, taking that same roundel
as his inspiration. Here is a carved capitol from Laziza, and here is the capitol by the sculptor Edgar Boehm, a great
favorite of the royal family, which clearly again is similar enough to feel that he was asked to do something very much along the same lines. So they were quite
specific in trying to base Leighton’s Arab Hall on these interiors. This simply shows the
restoration of the dome of the Arab Hall, because
all the contemporary accounts make a great play of how these colored glass windows, the light coming through them illuminates the dome in this spectacular way. But it had been painted
over at some point. We don’t know exactly when. And so, in the recent restoration, we carried out extensive paint analysis to reveal the original decorative scheme. That was then regilded. And then this is a view from beneath, showing the geometry of the Arab Hall and this restored golden dome. And, in fact, originally,
Burne-Jones wrote that he, together with Walter Crane, was supposed to be let loose on the dome to create gold mosaic decoration, but that that never happened. And in fact, Burne-Jones was one of the few dissenting voices. He didn’t like the Arab Hall. He felt it was a great
shame that these wonderful original tiles from Damascus were entrapped in this construction. And here’s an image of the house and of the Arab Hall as it was presented in Leighton’s day. And it begs the question,
what was this for? Why did he build this extension? And it really seems to be
the most extreme version of this same idea of creating a setting for a particular group of objects. So here what he’s doing is creating an atmospheric
evocative settings, in which this collection of
tiles, most of which date from the end of the 16th,
beginning of the 17th century, and, as a collection of
tiles, are as significant as any in any British museum, it allowed them to be seen and appreciated in this way. What it doesn’t, there’s no evidence that Leighton himself played out a kind of Arabian Nights
fantasy within this room. And as you can see, even
in the way it’s furnished, with a Japanese folding screen here, a Pompeian table here, and
contemporary furniture here, that, in fact, it was much more eclectic than it might now appear. And I think many visitors
to Leighton House now assume that Leighton
was a great orientalist, when in fact, it was one
aspect of his interest. If he painted any orientalist pictures, they are contained within the period when he was traveling,
collecting this material, and building his Arab Hall. It certainly was used as a smoking room, and there’s an account of a dinner at which the artists
Albert Moore, Whistler and Burne-Jones were present. They retreat into the Arab Hall, and somebody is talking so animatedly that they walk backwards
and fall into the fountain, which is a habit that visitors
are unwilling to break. (chuckles) And move, then, through
into his little study. This is how it appeared
as recently as the 1980s, and then how it appears today. And it coincides with, its construction, with Leighton’s appointment
as the President of the Royal Academy. And so he had a great deal of more administrative
duties to attend to. Back into the Arab Hall and up the stairs. And as you climbed the
stairs, you were confronted by two wonderful portraits, the one we saw earlier by
George Fredric Watts of Leighton that hung on the stairs. Compared to any other image of him, painted image of him, you get a sense of one artist friend painting
another artist friend. Something of the formality
of Leighton is lost in, not least in his crumpled suit. What’s very interesting about this is, this work was not sold at Christie’s. It was presented by Leighton’s sisters to a family, a landed gentry
family who lived in Shropshire in England with the surname of Leighton. And the Leighton family of the artist and this family in Shropshire
had convinced themselves they were all related to each other. Because if you go beyond
Leighton’s grandfather who went to St. Petersburg,
the previous generation were coal merchants. Before that, they were
innkeepers and brick layers. And in these interviews with Leighton, it says he was willing to
talk about the grandfather who went to St. Petersburg,
and then rather got vague about any previous ancestry. So finding this family
in Shropshire was a way, posthumously, by presenting
this portrait to them, of suggesting that they must be connected. The portrait stayed within
that family in Shropshire until about 2000, then, following a detour to Australia, it has now returned to Leighton House and hangs in the position
where it did originally. Then, a little further on,
Leighton’s fantastic portrait of Richard Burton, the
explorer and diplomat, who we know helped Leighton secure tiles during the period that Burton was the British consul in Damascus. You then emerged into the Silk Room. And here was where Leighton organized, and I use the word organized
because he very definitely arranged his collection of pictures in a very deliberate way. So we’re looking into what
was called the Silk Room, added right at the end of Leighton’s life as a picture gallery. Earlier on in the history of the museum, it had been here that, for years, collections of Leighton’s
drawings were just displayed. And this gives a sense how,
throughout the 20th century, how Leighton House rather vascillated between being a gallery space and a domestic, or presented
as a domestic space. And here, just to show
you the range of pictures. Along this far wall were
works that had been presented to Leighton by his contemporaries. But just to start with
that armoreal tapestry at the top there, if you look
at the back right-hand side of the image, you can see where that hung. And it hung in a recess which was top-lit, so in a kind of museological way, it was preserved from direct sunlight but presented in its own
niche with its own lighting. And although there are a
number of variants of this, I think this is now in the
Metropolitan here in New York. But then, the other
works presented to him, Sargent with one of his studies for the Boston Public Library, a work by Giovanni Costa
that we’ve recently acquired. Costa was a great Italian
friend of Leighton’s and has the fame of being
the only other person known to have slept at Leighton House when he stayed there with
his wife on one occasion. Work by Lawrence
Alma-Tadema that hung here, and Alma-Tadema and Leighton were great Royal Academy colleagues. John Everett Millais, in the center there, George Frederic Watts, one of his studies for his picture Hope, one
of the possible sources for the pose of Flaming June, a work by the artist Marie Casan. And in the research that
we did to try and trace Leighton’s collection, this surfaced at the Currier Museum in
Manchester in New Hampshire. And they were unaware of this connection, and the work remained in their store. So they very generously agreed to sell it to us for a Dollar. And so it now is returned
to Leighton House and hung where it once did. And then Albert Moore’s Vase of Dahlias, Albert Moore living for
a period just 50 yards from Leighton in Holland Park Road. Then, over the fireplace was arranged his Venetian collection,
essentially dominated by this wonderful Tintoretto,
which has returned to the museum a few years ago. He had some 16 works by Venetian artists of the 16 century. And then, on the far
wall, and particularly in relation to here, he had
pictures of a century earlier, 15th century work. And the very earliest picture in his… Oops, sorry. Very earliest picture
in his collection here, by Barna Da Siena, which
is now here at the Frick. It was sold at the Leighton
sale to Charles Fairfax Murray, the artist and dealer, and
through the good offices of Lord Duveen found its way,
as many things did, here. I mentioned the Currier
Museum selling the work back to Leighton House for a Dollar. So perhaps to just leave that thought (audience laughs)
with you. Here is the scheme by George Aitchison for this Silk Room, which shows, and this seems to predate this scheme, which shows the arrangement
of pictures as we saw it, again emphasizing how the considerations were given to how the
collection be displayed as part of the conception of the rooms. And here, a view of that
Silk Room as it now appears, with a number of those works now hanging back where they once did. We then emerge into the studio. And this is one of the
great set piece moments I referred to earlier. This was presumably the
lineup of Leighton’s pictures before they were sent to
the Royal Academy of 1895. And that event was always
marked by Show Sunday, where not just Leighton, but
by many of his contemporaries, would organize days where the public, and it’s not quite clear on what basis the public were admitted,
would come to view the house, meet the artist, and
view that year’s submission. And there was enormous anticipation about what these leading
artists would be submitting that year, and the opportunity
to go and see the works before they were sent to the Royal Academy allowed word to spread, allowed people to talk about these pictures. And if the artist was
lucky, they would, in fact, sell their work or could sell their work in the studio before it ever
went to the Royal Academy. So again, it’s the studio space being very deliberately used, or where it coincides with the commercial interests of the artist. And of course, Flaming June, shown very prominently
on the right-hand side. And it was also in this room where Leighton’s annual
music event took place. Every spring for the whole 30 years that he lived at the
house, he had a concert at which internationally
distinguished musicians would come and perform
for the same audience, year in, year out. Burne-Jones wrote about
how much he anticipated, how much he looked
forward to these events, because it was quite often
the case that the people who went would never see each other in the intervening year. They would see each
other for the first time the following year. And he said how everyone
would say to each other, “You look not a day older
than the last time I saw you,” and how difficult that became to maintain as time passed and things moved on. Again an image just to show
its municipal appearance in the 60s, and then
as it’s now presented. Back again with a view
through to the Silk Room and the cast of the Parthenon frieze that we saw earlier used as the backdrop of Leighton’s self portrait. As I mentioned, the contents of the house were sold at Christie’s
and entirely dispersed. And this cabinet has
a very intriguing tale in that it was surfaced at an auction in 1997 in Melbourne, Australia. The person bought it and took it home and in the drawer inside
found the Leighton sale catalog of 1896,
that the auction house, who shall remain nameless,
had failed to notice. But they contacted the museum and said, “Does this cabinet have anything
to do with Leighton House?” And as you can see from
the image on the left, there it is. The owner visited the museum and we stood in front of
a blank piece of wall, with me rather desperately dropping hints about how nice it might
be for it once to return. And, while it was not presented back, through the great good
support of one of the museum’s most wonderful supporters, it was possible to reacquire
it and for it to return, having traveled around the world, exactly back to the spot
where it left in 1896. And then, just to finish,
back where we started, in Leighton’s bedroom. This is the surprisingly modest, almost austere, bedroom, decorated in a William Morris wallpaper, where the rest of the door, furniture and door
architraves are bespoke here, they become standard, as though you’ve almost entered a different
environment at all. And this absolutely
emphasizes this tension, as I said, between Leighton’s
private personality and his public self. He could speak five languages. He was great friends with
members of the royal family. And in fact, somebody
was once holding forth to Whistler of all of
Leighton’s accomplishments, the facts he could sing,
he was a great dancer, he, as I say, had these
great linguistic abilities, at which Whistler shrugged his shoulders and apparently said, “I
hear he paints a bit, too.” (audience laughs) So there was that public side to him. But his private self
remains very difficult to really feel one can
grasp or understand. He seems to be very good at preserving whatever private life he enjoyed. And people who knew him, the artist William Powell
Frith said, “I knew Leighton “for 30 years, but I don’t know him yet.” Millais described him as a
solitary, self-contained man. And you get some sense of that, almost as though the rest
of the house is constructed almost as a stage on
which Leighton was able to inhabit, or perform, to use that word that Henry James used, the
role of a great artist. Yet his private self was very different, required a very different
set of circumstances in which he, as this only private
room within the house. And it was here that he died in 1896. And his last recorded
words were, “Give my love “to the Royal Academy,” exactly what you’d sort
of think he would say, demonstrating his devotion
to that institution and to art. But according to his first biographer, he then turned to his sisters
and spoke to them in German for a prolonged period of time. So again, you’re just left to speculate about what that conversation was about, and the contrast between
a public utterance and a private conversation. His coffin was taken across to the studio, where it lay. And it was placed beneath
this last work, Clytie, that he had been working
on up until his death. It was not quite completed. And it’s definitely the case
that in the last 10 years of his life, he produced a
series of pictures which, if you like, are about the sun. And, of course, Flaming
June entirely falls within that sequence of pictures. In Flaming June, it’s the sun as it’s most life-enhancing, life-enriching. Here, it’s a different kind of idea. This is Clytie, who has
been abandoned by Apollo. And she falls to her knees,
imploring his return. In the end, he takes pity
on her, converting her into a flower or sunflower,
forever following the course of the sun. But the reason why this
picture was immediately seized on as such an appropriate image to commemorate or memorialize Leighton was the sense that here, it’s invested with something more than
many of his pictures, that he was conscious
of his ailing health, and that there is something about him imploring the vitality of the sun’s rays not to depart. One can’t help but think of
Turner’s last recorded words, which was, “The sun, the sun is God.” And there seems to be
something of the sense of that in this painting, Clytie. And it was wonderful for Leighton House when we were able to
acquire this work in 2008. As a little postscript, I just wanted to show you this image. I would like to say this is
Leighton House every day. But it’s not quite as busy as that. This was an exhibition
that we recently had of a Mexican private collection
of 52 Victorian pictures which drew enormous new
audiences to view the house and to see these pictures
absolutely in a context in which they are meaningful and made the most impact. And then, finally, a project that we are developing to convert, as you can see,
on the right-hand top image, additions that were made
to the house in the 1920s, and to use them, redevelop them, to take the pressure off the original, these wonderful interiors
within the house itself, to create the facilities
that visitors expect within that wing, and by so doing, we hope, preserving this extraordinary house
and the story it tells for future generations. Thank you very much. (applause) – The exhibition will remain
open for the next 20 minutes, and please join Daniel–

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