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