A new exhibition of photographs of some of the most celebrated Royal Academicians of recent times, shown in the context of their studios, has opened in the romantic setting of Leighton House, a museum housed in the former home of Lord Leighton in Holland Park. One of the foremost painters and sculptors of his generation, Frederic, Lord Leighton, was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy from 1864 and became its president in 1878, overseeing the organisation until his death in 1896.
Now a new exhibition ‘Studio Sittings’ at his former home and studio, Holland Park’s Leighton House, explores the nature of the artist’s studio and the artist’s relationship with their personal, creative space through a series of photographs of Royal Academicians past and present. Leighton’s own house was his ‘private palace of art’ and features the extraordinary Arab Hall with its golden dome, intricate mosaics and walls lined with beautiful Islamic tiles.
The exhibition includes sitters, Dame Elisabeth Frink, Sir Peter Blake, Elizabeth Blackadder, Sir Anthony Caro, Antony Gormley and Grayson Perry. Studio Sittings is a series of photographs of some of the most celebrated Royal Academicians in recent times taken by Anne Purkiss, who has been photographing Royal Academicians for over 25 years. The images have never been show together as a collection and they provide a telling insight into the working environment and creative spaces of today’s foremost artists, from warehouses, farm buildings, garden sheds a room in a high-rise block of flats and a converted chapel.
Alongside these contemporary photographs is a collection of images depicting Leighton and his RA associates, also posed in their studios. Brought together especially for this exhibition, these rare images provide an illuminating comparison between the working spaces of today’s artists and their Victorian counterparts. At the same time they illustrate the how the concept of artist as celebrity was as endemic in Victorian times as today; Leighton’s era was the first to see photographs of artists widely published and collected, with purpose-built studio-houses playing a central part in establishing the prestige which artists enjoyed at the end of the 19th century.
Exhibition runs at Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road, Kensington, W14 8LZ from 15 March – 12 May 2013.www.leightonhouse.co.uk