Within the Royal Academy Leighton was a strong advocate for female artists. When he became President in 1878 it had been over 100 years since a female academician had been elected. Leighton was keen that women should once again be included and attempted to use the election of Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser in the 18th century to push for change. Unfortunately, Leighton was unsuccessful and it wasn’t until 1936 that another female academician (Dame Laura Knight) was elected, however he did make sure that female artists and makers were represented in his own collection.
Leighton purchased Shades of Evening by Marie Cazin in 1892. Cazin was a French painter and sculptor associated with the impressionist movement and her works were exhibited widely at the Royal Academy in London and at the Salon des Artistes Francais in Paris. Leighton also owned embroidery by the eminent landscape gardener, artist and writer Gertrude Jekyll. Leighton had seen Jekyll’s work at the London International Exhibition Society in New Bond Street, and described it as “of remarkable merit in point of colour and arrangement.” In total Jekyll completed four commissions for Leighton, including a cover for the dining room table.
After Leighton’s death in 1896 Leighton House’s development into a museum was spearheaded by a succession of passionate, creative women. Emile Barrington moved to the Holland Park area in 1882, and became fascinated by the Holland Park Circle of artists, taking painting lessons from G.F. Watts. Barrington was determined that Leighton House should be open to the public, and ran it as a museum almost singlehandedly until its transfer to the council in 1925. In the following year Ida Southwell Perrin, another local Leighton enthusiast, donated funds for the creation of a new temporary exhibition space at the museum. The Perrin Wing has since hosted many major exhibitions including Flaming June in 2016, and will shortly be given a new lease of life as part of the capital project Hidden Gem to National Treasure.