This year we have focussed particularly on arranging a varied range of events that were easy to reach within London. By their special nature numbers for each visit are limited and it is most gratifying that they are soon fully booked with a waiting list
In February and March we were very fortunate to have visits to ENO for La boheme and The Magic Flute enjoying hospitality in the Queens retiring room as well as superb performances on the stage of the Coliseum.
Two lectures in March at the Wallace Collection on the exhibition Henry Moore- The Helmet Heads were particularly popular. This exhibition revealed how the artist’s long relationship with the Collection inspired his work.
Also in February there was a guided tour of Two Temple Place and the exhibition The Power of Seeing celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of John Ruskin. A true polymath, the exhibition illustrated Ruskins attitude to aesthetic beauty and brought together for the first time significant objects from museums and collections all over the country.
In April there was a visit to the Heath Robinson Museum, Pinner. Set in Pinners Memorial Park and officially opened in 2016, it is the first London Museum in over 40 years to be purposely built in Greater London and it showcases the work of the world-renowned artist, illustrator, humourist and social commentator William Heath Robinson. The Friends were treated to a fascinating curator led tour of the special temporary exhibition, The Beardsley Generation. This explored the impact that new photographic means of reproduction (process engraving) at the end of the 19th Century had on illustration and featured original work drawings, books and periodicals by amongst others Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Ricketts
Flaming June saw us enjoying good weather at the annual Garden Party in the grounds and house of Leighton House Museum. Central to the Victorian Circus theme this year was a grand striped tent where acrobats, jugglers and magicians entertained a large, enthusiastic crowd. Period style desserts and soft drinks, complemented by sparkling wine and once again generous raffle prizes delighted those successful in the final draw.
In July we ventured to Ealing for special curator led tours at the newly restored and reopened Sir John Soane’s Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery. Pitzhanger Manor is a rare and spectacular example of a building designed, built and lived in by Sir John Soane himself. The conservation and restoration project was of particular interest to us as supporters of Leighton House which is itself about to embark on a major remodelling project. With its stripped classical detail, canopy domed ceilings, radical decorative paint schemes and inventive use of space and light, Pitzhanger restoration is truly awe-inspiring. The first exhibition in the newly created Pitzhanger Gallery, by Anish Kapoor featured a series of sculptures that echo Soane’s complex use of mirrors and light. We are very fortunate that the tours were by Pitzhanger’s director, Clare Gough and by the curator of the Anish Kapoor, John Leslie.
Early September saw us in North London. Guided by an expert through West Cemetery Highgate we followed sinuous paths winding up a steep wooded hill past ivy-clad monuments and some impressive architectural features such as — the Chapel, Colonnade, Egyptian Avenue. Fortunately, the weather held fine and dry. Not for the faint hearted and enjoyed by all.
Later in September we were back south of the river for a guided walk intriguingly entitled A Toast to Bohemia: Artists and Chelsea’s Riverside. The area attracted many of the foremost practitioners associated with Aesthetic art and design, was home to several important patrons, and features some highly distinctive examples of Queen Anne revival architecture. We also paid a visit to Thomas Carlyle’s House and garden.
In October we took advantage again of the VIP access afforded the Friends to Frieze London and Frieze Masters. Occupying a large area in Regent’s Park Frieze is one of the foremost international art fairs and it feels a real privilege to be so close to world renowned artists and priceless works of art.
In a follow up to the Pitzhanger tour there was a guided tour in November of the exhibition Hogarth; Place and Progress at Sir John Soane’s Museum. This evening event included an especially arranged reception for the Friends and much of it took place in atmospheric candle light.
Leighton’s Dinner November 2019 finished the special Friends events for the year. Welcomed with champagne in the glorious setting of the Arab Hall, guests then move to the stunningly decorated Leighton Studio for a formal dinner. It was also the inaugural performance of our musicians in residence from the Royal College of Music. Guest of honour was Stephen Deuchar, retiring director of the Art Fund, who has been closely involved with Leighton House as a former Trustee.