After months of preparation, the start of the capital works at the museum is now imminent. Over the last couple of weeks, staff have relocated to offices in the stable yard in Holland Park. The reserve collection has also been packed up ready for removal into storage. As part of this process, several paintings not usually on display have been moved into the house. These include a portrait of the museum’s ‘founder’ Emilie Barrington by Charles Fairfax Murray, a bronze bust of her by Mary Thornycroft and two of her own oil paintings. Mrs Barrington lived with her husband in Melbury Road with the Thornycroft family of sculptors on one side and G.F. Watts on the other. She befriended many of the artists living nearby. Her devotion to Watts (who gave her painting lessons) and habit of dropping in on him unannounced, became an irritant to Watts’ second wife Mary, contributing to the couple’s decision to establish a second home at Compton in Surrey.
Following Leighton’s death and with his home facing an uncertain future, she was behind the move to establish the house as a centre for the arts in Kensington. In 1906 she published a substantial biography of Leighton which remains an invaluable source and a number of the works by Leighton on display in the house were presented by her. Having fallen out with a committee of the great and good established to secure its future, she financed and ran the house more or less singlehandedly until its transfer to the council at the end of the 1920s. The crucial part she played in establishing the museum and preserving Leighton’s legacy will be recognised in the new displays planned for the refurbished wing.