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Monday, November 24, 2014


John Everett Millais. The Crown of Love. 1875. Oil on canvas.

14 November 2014 – 29 March 2015

Last week saw the opening of A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón Collection at Leighton House
Museum which presents rarely seen masterpieces of Victorian art belonging to the Mexican collector
Juan Antonio Pérez Simón. Until the 29 March 2015 visitors to Leighton House Museum will
experience 52 exceptional paintings from the largest Victorian private art collection outside Great
Britain, shown for the first time in the UK. Alongside six works by Frederic, Lord Leighton (four of
which will be returning to the house in which they were painted) A Victorian Obsession presents
paintings which have seldom if ever been exhibited before by many of the most celebrated Victorian
artists, illustrating the astonishingly diverse representations of women that characterised this period of British art.

The images range from the domestic to the romantic and from the symbolic to the overtly sensual.
The exhibition’s highlights include Alma-Tadema’s magnificent The Roses of Heliogabalus (1888), an iconic image of Roman decadence which has not been exhibited in London since 1913. One of the
great paintings of the Victorian era, it memorably depicts the Emperor Heliogabalus’s suffocation of
his guests beneath a torrent of rose petals. Leighton’s Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea
(1871) is one of his earliest and most striking ‘aesthetic’ works, placing formal harmony above
narrative content and showing Leighton as the master of English drapery. Two further works,
Antigone (1882) and the sexually charged Crenaia, the Nymph of the Dargle (1880), feature the
model Dorothy Dene. Leighton’s relationship with Dene was significant in his later years, when her
role as his principal model, muse and social companion was widely commented on.

On his collection being displayed at Leighton House, Juan Antonio Pérez Simón commented ‘It is an
honour to be a part of the journey that allows these masterpieces to be shown in such an authentic
setting, and in some cases returning to their home. It gives me great joy to know that the public will be able to appreciate these exceptional paintings, making us accomplices in our everlasting duty to
nourish the spirit.’

Frederic, Lord Leighton Greek girls picking up pebbles by the sea, 1871

Senior Curator for Leighton House Museum, Daniel Robbins said ‘It has been a wonderful opportunity to work so closely with this fantastic collection of pictures. The House is now transformed by the paintings and the paintings enhanced by setting them within Leighton’s decorative interiors; there has never been an exhibition where so many outstanding pictures of this period has been shown in such a special and sympathetic environment. It’s a unique setting and a special moment for the public to see these works, some of which are returning home to the very place they were painted.

Councillor Timothy Coleridge, Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Transport and Arts, the Royal
Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, commented ‘It is a great honour for us to be hosting the only UK exhibition of this prestigious collection at Leighton House Museum. There could be no more fitting venue than Leighton’s studio-house where some of the works were actually painted and which was familiar to so many of the artists who are represented in the exhibition. We look forward to welcoming many new visitors to discover the museum and collection for the first time and enjoy a unique aesthetic experience.’

Venue: Leighton House Museum, open daily except Tuesdays, 10am - 5.30pm
Entry: £10 / £6 concessions / Art Fund and National Trust Members 50% discount
Ticket booking: www.rbkc.gov.uk/buytickets / 0800 912 6968
More information: www.rbkc.gov.uk/AVictorianObsession

Friday, November 21, 2014


Victoria here. Kristine and I were fortunate enough to attend  preview of the Constable exhibition now on view at the Victoria and Albert museum in London.

According to the Exhibition curator, "Constable: The Making of Master reveals the hidden stories of how John Constable created some of his most loved and well-known paintings. On display are such famous works as The Haywain together with the oil sketches he painted outdoors direct from nature." The exhibition continues in London until January 11, 2015. If you are near London, don't miss it.
Constable is one of England's best-loved painters. Born in 1776 in Suffolk, he studied hard to become a painter of note, though he was elected to the Royal Academy only at age 52. The exhibition looks at the paintings he studied, and shows many of his sketches for later works that continue to capture the public imagination two hundred years later. 
John Constable 1776-1837
Self Portrait, from the National Portrait Gallery, London
Thomas Gainsborough, Landscape with a Pool, c. 1747
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University
Among the many influences on Constable was his fellow native of East Anglia, Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). Constable is said to have preferred the more natural style of Gainsborough's early landscapes to his celebrated portraiture.  Below, Landscape with a Pool in the Constable exhibition.
Claude Lorrain (1604/5-82) -- below -- was another strong influence on Constable in developing his landscape style. 
 Landscape with Hagar and the Angel, 1646, by Claude Lorrain
National Gallery, London
Constable, Dedham Vale from the Coombs, 1802, V and A Collection
Shows the influences of the Claude work above which Constable knew well.
 Another early work by Constable is below.
Moonlight Landscape with Hadleigh Church, 1796
Private Collection
Constable, Two Studies of Ploughs, 1814
V and A
Constable was a careful draughtsman as well as an inspired and imaginative painter.  He worked hard to reach accuracy in all regards, as in the studies of ploughs (above and clouds (below).
This study of clouds dates from about 1821.
Another technique Constable experimented with was painting outside, in the open air. Work had to be fast to catch the light effects before they changed. The work below was done in a friend;s grdin in about an hour.
The Close, Salisbury, 1829
V and A
Part of the fun of attending a press preview is watching the other writers and photographers at work.
From the text panel: "Drawing on Glass...Constable captured scenes from nature by sketching them on paper.  His initial pencil drawing could then be inked over and squared up to transfer the composition to a canvas for painting We can see this method in the surviving preparatory sketch and its finished paining Watermeadows at Salisbury."
Sketch: Watermeadows at Salisbury 1829-30
Constable, Watermeadows at Salisbury, 1829-30
V and A

Two versions of the renowned Constable painting
The HayWain 1821
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds, 1823
V and A
While preparing the exhibition, conservators at the V and A discovered an oil sketch on the reverse side of Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead.  A special mount was designed to show both paintings, showing, " a narrow clearing fringed by  trees against an unsettled sky...probably made in the late summer of 1821 or 1822 when Constable painted a number of sketches featuring similar could studies and motifs..."
Branch Hill Pond, Hampstead, 1821-22 (above)
Landscape with a Kiln, 1821-22
on the reverse
Constable The Opening of Waterloo Bridge seen
from Whitehall Stairs June 18th, 1817
1832, Tate Britain
This is just a taste of the many delights in this outstanding exhibition curated by Dr. Mark Evans, FSA, Senior Curator of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Highly recommended!!
The exhibition website is here.