I popped into the Leighton House Museum the other day. I didn't go there to look at the house, I went there because there was an exhibition of the paintings of Churchill. But I fell in love with the house while the paintings were eminently forgettable. It is an extraordinary place, the home of Lord Leighton, designed in 1864. Now I could have imagined myself living here.
It reminded me of the time I visited an Ottoman Era house in Cairo. See here for that photo essay.
Again the tiles reminded me of this building that I saw in Cairo. But the damn attendants came around and said that I cannot use my camera. DAMMIT!, what’s wrong with them? So I walked off and up into the first floor in a huff. Still, sod them, I took out my iPhone and took the following photographs starting from the huge studio.
A tidy little balcony looked over the rear garden. Can you imagine painting with this kind of vista in front of you? I would love it, in fact I would love to have a house like this. Not so much as to paint but to read and write..I cant paint worth a damn. Fence painting is the best I can do, lol.
I wasnt impressed. I mean, they were ok as watercolours but besides the fact that they were painted by Churchill and a local royal, nothing more to say about them. So I turned around and went back to the studio. And now the journey starts properly.
On one side of the studio, you have this staircase which leads to a balcony, almost like a minstrels gallery which runs the width of the room. This little area around the staircase was used to make the paints. The balcony was used by the painter to paint the higher reaches of the very large paintings he made, and also to help with the frames. I suppose I never thought about how painters got to paint the huge huge paintings. This makes sense.
Here is his bedroom. Tiny bed!. How the heck did he manage to sleep in that? or did he sleep alone? the walls are hung with pencil drawings. Amusingly, the places around the museum where you can sit, like the old chairs, this bed, the shelves, they had these pine cones on them. So as a delicate warning not to sit on them. I love this understated notices “samajdhar ko ishara ki kafi hota hai” (a small gesture is enough for the intelligent)
A bear rug is on the floor. That took me back to my childhood. My grandfather was a big hairy hunter and one of the things we got was a bear rug. It was extraordinary to lie on and do stuff, good for all concerned. Imagine yourself sleeping inside a cylinder lined with velvety very soft fur. Or wearing a fur coat inside out. We had to throw it out after it became too tatty and started losing clumps of hair. What a tragedy. With an evil nostalgic grin, I walked on.
Peering down a bit more, you can see a stuffed peacock.
The painting on the left does not need any explanation. A copy that Leighton made while in Rome. Then I moved downstairs and into the dining room.
The dining room has these lovely plates mounted on the walls on some extraordinarily beautiful wallpaper.
Moving into the next room where I suppose he could be using as a morning room. The views over the side of the garden, the large windows, all combined to make this into a light and airy room. Lovely place. Again hung with lovely paintings.
This room was also hung with four panels of paintings which show similar scenes in four seasons. I am going to try to do this one day. I leave the morning room and emerge into the Arab room.
The detail is exquisite. I am sure anybody from the Middle East will go very nostalgic if they pop in here.
They have made it very nicely and tastefully, all those centuries back. It doesnt look bad, very very nicely done, considering that the designer had to work with thousands of tiles in a bewildering variety of colours and designs. They work together.
Here is his working desk and this is where I really fell in love with the house.
Who wouldn't want to work in that room? with that lovely looking desk? one day when I grow up, I want an office like that. I leave the building and pop outside.
As usual, I stood there trying to think of the painter. What a man, see his biography here. I am just thinking about what a fantastic life he must have led. Travelling the continent and the middle east, learning about history, culture, mythology, architecture, food, painting, sculpture, metal working, chemistry, light, wood working, diplomacy, running a big organisation, etc. etc. What a renaissance man. And this lovely beautiful house, airy, filled with memories, very tastefully done, surrounded with the tools of his trade. I wish I had a house like this to work in. Well, mine isnt that bad, but its getting too small with all the damn books, lol.