Tag Archives: Sir Frederic Leighton

The Arab Hall in Lord Leighton’s House

“Of all the Arab Halls in all the towns in all the world…”

…this is my favorite.

I’ve spent hours in this room, in what was once the Holland Park home of Sir Frederic Leighton. The house is a museum now—I’ve posted about the current Alma-Tadema exhibition, which is taking place there—and I visit it whenever I’m in London, which is never often enough.

And now you can visit too, in a way. I’ve just found some gorgeous 360-degrees panoramic views of many of the rooms in the Leighton House Museum.

Clicking this link will take you to the museum’s Reception area.  From there, you can travel directly to the Arab Hall, or take a narrated tour through the rest of the house.

It’s a great place to visit, and I’d really love to live there.


The Last of Leighton

And now we’ve reached the end of the Leighton House-Ram Shergill collaboration, in which Shergill mapped selected paintings by Sir Frederic Leighton to his own work as a fashion photographer.  It’s made for some thought-provoking combinations.

I wrote yesterday that the match-ups seemed to be getting more literal as the week went along. Not today.  The only common element I see here is draped fabric.

“Looking at Leighton’s ‘Colour Sketch for Countess Brownlow’ from a fashion perspective, the fabric seems soft and sensual, almost like a sari, draped in a skillful way.  Perhaps the Countess travelled and took inspiration from the British Raj?   Or perhaps Lord Leighton had just traveled to Greece and returned with wonderfully fine cottons? Flowing gowns nipped tightly at the waist with a band can be seen on many runways today.  Alexander Wang and Herve Leger have predominantly showcased monochrome collections.  We can only wait for what Chanel might have in store for this year’s Paris Fashion Week.”
—Ram Shergill

The Five Days in Review

This Time, Sir Frederic Leighton Meets Alexander McQueen

The London Fashion Week collaboration between the Leighton House Museum and British fashion photographer Ram Shergill continues.   Shergill has been coupling his own photographic works with specific paintings by Leighton.  This is the fourth of five match-ups.

They seem to be getting more literal.

“I particularly like this image of Leighton’s ‘Head of an Italian model’ as it has a certain realness about it.  I love the darkness of it as it takes me right back to the time when I first started photography.  There is something quite dark and macabre about this portrait.The image reminds me of when Alexander McQueen showed me some of his art and photography books and said that he was into ‘the macabre’ – something that mesmerized me.  This image captures a ‘sensual’ macabre for me as it is a magnificent portrait of a beautiful profile. But there also seems to be something sinister in the way the subject is looking up as if to pray, or to perhaps reflect on something that he has done or is intending to do.  Since meeting McQueen, my work has always contained this edge. The palette is similar to some of the great paintings by Caravaggio who has inspired various works by me.  The lighting lends itself to the display of light-coloured fabrics in combination with the pale skin tones of the human body.”

—Ram Shergill

I spent the first two weeks of Spring in London this year, and one of the things that influenced my choice of time and location was the scheduling of two exhibitions that I really wanted to see: A Leighton House exhibition of 50 pictures from the Pérez Simón Collection, including Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’ s “The Roses of Heliogabalus”, was in its final days…

…and an Alexander McQueen retrospective was opening at my favourite museum, the V&A.

It never occurred to me to link the two.

Sir Frederic Leighton Meets Christian Lacroix, Sweetie Darling

Here’s yesterday’s posting from the London Fashion Week collaboration between the Leighton House Museum and British fashion photographer Ram Shergill, in which Shergill selected paintings by Leighton and linked them to his own work.

“What attracts me to Leighton’s ‘A Noble Lady of Venice’ is the opulence of the garments that the lady is wearing as well as her elegant headscarf.  The detail of the garment draped around her reminds me of the couture designers I am constantly working with, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, and their Zardozi work.  It is also reminds of the great fashion designer Christian Lacroix’s haute couture with lavish and chic costume extravaganzas that still remain wearable.”
—Ram Shergill

Sunday Morning — Victoriana of the Week

I’ve mentioned before that Leighton House Museum, the former home and studio of the Victorian artist Sir Frederic Leighton, is one of my favourite places in London.  I’ve spent hours in  the Leighton House’s breathtaking Arab Hall, just…savouring.

Arab Hall

Arab Hall

London Fashion Week began this weekend, and Leighton House is collaborating with acclaimed British fashion photographer, Ram Shergill, on a Fashion Week-related project.   Shergill selected five paintings by Leighton and married them to some of his own best work.

“I love this image of Lord Leighton’s ‘Bianca’: it has the softness that designers try to convey in their collections such as Chanel haute couture by Karl Lagerfeld or Margiela by John Galliano.  The ruching of the sleeve and the juxtaposition of a flowing white fabric and a black strap on the garment create a graphic and timeless look, almost like an early Vivienne Westwood in her Pirates collection or the current, primarily monochrome collection by Ricardo Tisci for Givenchy.One of my favorite models is, in fact, called Bianca and I have taken many photographs of her in a similar style. Bianca’s gaze is sullen, introspective and yet nonchalant.  Her hands and skin are delicate.  She is not looking at us, she is looking behind us – something that I always try to capture in my photography as I find it creates a magical and inviting pose.”
—Ram Shergill

“This haunting image of Leighton’s, ‘Head of an Italian Model’ is relevant today as it could almost be seen as a ‘fashion portrait’.  Beautifully groomed and poetic in appearance, he looks like an affluent artist or nobleman, a man of distinction.  His hair looks like it is slightly moving in the wind.  The subject looks like a choice of model that many campaigns and editorials are using in fashion right now, the beard has been very en vogue for a while – and facial hair is not frowned upon like it was in the 1980s and ‘90s.”
—Ram Shergill

I’ll be posting more to the project as the week progresses.

Leighton House Museum

Leighton House Museum is the former home and studio of the Victorian artist Sir Frederic Leighton.   I’ve posted earlier about the curious financial history of Lord Leighton’s best known painting, Flaming June, and its upcoming visit to the United States.

Flaming June Leighton

“Flaming June,” by Sir Frederic Leighton

Returning to Leighton House was at the top of my list of things I wanted to do in London, for two reasons.

The first reason was that the jewel in the crown at Leighton House is one of my favourite rooms:  The Arab Hall.  I could have spent hours in this beautiful, serene, three-storey work of art.


Arab Hall

The second reason was that Leighton House was hosting an exhibition of more than fifty rarely exhibited pictures from the Pérez Simón Collection, which is the largest private collection of Victorian and Edwardian art outside Great Britain, now that the Forbes collection has been dispersed by Malcolm Forbes’ massively inept heirs.   Juan Antonio Pérez Simón, a Mexican telecommunications billionaire, is one of the world’s foremost private art collectors. His taste is wide-ranging—he buys what he likes, not what’s fashionable—and his collection exceeds 3,000 paintings.

I hadn’t known just what was in his Victorian collection, and was delighted to find that it included one of my favourite paintings:   Waterhouse’s  “The Crystal Ball.”


“The Crystal Ball,” by John William Waterhouse

But the clear star of the collection, w/a room to itself, was Alma-Tadema’s “The Roses of Heliogabalus.”

The_Roses_of_Heliogabalus tt

“The Roses of Heliogabalus,” by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

I posted some notes about “The Roses of Heliogabalus” last fall, before I’d decided to spend early Spring in London, and long before I’d learned of this exhibition.

I had a hard time leaving Leighton House.  I walked through the full exhibition two or three times, with long visits to the Arab Hall at the start of the show and  “The Roses of Heliogabalus” at the end.  But I had plans for the evening, and finally had to say goodbye to Holland Park.

Sunday Morning — Victoriana of the Week

Flaming June 2

“Flaming June”, by Sir Frederic Leighton

I posted a note last Spring about the history of Sir Frederic Leighton’s “Flaming June”, and my visit to Lord Leighton’s Holland Park house.   Now comes word that the masterpiece will be visiting the US next summer.

The Museo de Arte de Ponce in Ponce, Puerto Rico has agreed to lend “Flaming June” to the Frick Collection, in New York City, where it will be on display from 9 June 2015 to 8 September 2015.

“Flaming June” was last seen in the US in 1997, as part of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art entitled “The Victorians:  British Painting in the Reign of Queen Victoria, 1837-1901”.  For me, the show was quite literally life-changing.  I visited it more than half a dozen times, and it completely changed the way I thought about art.  It was then that I fell in love w/the Pre-Raphaelites.