As is the case with many public collections, Leighton House Museum has accrued a diverse array of objects over the years. In addition to a core collection of works associated with Leighton and his contemporaries, the Museum has a reserve collection of items which have little or no relevance to the Museum and are confined to the store. Over the past year, in preparation for the refurbishment project, museum staff have been working to deaccession these items, and transfer them to other, more pertinent, UK collections where they will deliver greater public benefit.
Around 150 works have now left the Museum, with a further 150 due to be leaving in the next few months. Many of the works that have left are already on public display in their new homes – enabling visitors to view and enjoy them, in many cases for the first time. To show the impact that the project has had, here are a few examples of works which have already been transferred.
Merchant’s House, Marlborough: Portrait of a Gentleman in late 17th century costume
Historic Royal Palaces: Bust of HRH the Duchess of Kent
This bust by sculptor William Behnes will be going on display at Kensington Palace in the next year. The work depicts Queen Victoria’s mother the Duchess of Kent, and will be used to help tell the story of Queen Victoria’s early life at Kensington Palace. William Behnes also served as sculptor in ordinary to the young Queen at the start of her reign.
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft: Collection of seven works by Frank Brangwyn
Frank Brangwyn donated seven works, including six large scale etchings and one watercolour to Leighton House in the 1920s, around the time he left his Hammersmith studio and relocated to Ditchling, Sussex. Brangwyn lived in Ditchling for the remainder of his life, and it is here he produced some of his most recognisable works including the murals for the Rockefeller centre. Despite his long association with the village, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft had relatively few examples of his work until now. The addition of these seven pieces will therefore add a new dimension to the Museum’s collection, further enabling them to tell the story of the remarkable colony of artists that settled there in the early twentieth century.
Mersea Island Museum: Two paintings by Lewis Taylor Gibb
Lewis Taylor Gibb began his career as a draper in Kensington, but in the 1920s appears to have given up the family trade and embarked on a career as a professional artist. Gibb was predominantly a landscape painter, and in 1929 he moved to Mersea Island, Essex – presumably to be closer to his subject matter. When Leighton House staff contacted Mersea Island Museum to offer them the works they were unaware of Gibb and his association with the Island. Having acquired the pieces, they have since conducted extensive research into his life and hope to uncover more information about his studio-house, Holmcroft. The two paintings have already featured in the local newspaper The Mersea Courier and will be on public display in the Museum when it reopens for the summer season next month.