Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sambourne and Leighton

The advantage to spending three weeks in London is that it gives me time to visit some of the more obscure and less touristy places that I probably wouldn’t see otherwise. Today I had the chance to visit the Linley Sambourne and Frederick Leighton Houses in Kensington with Deann, Kelly and Una. These homes compliment Red House and gave me a more rounded feel for the life of an artist in the late 1800s.

Linley Sambourne was a cartoonist for the satirical Punch Magazine for almost 40 years. His friends included William Morris, Henry Irving and Oscar Wilde. He began his career as an engineering draftsman but the cartoon sketches he made for his friends got him noticed by the editor of Punch. Freelance work soon turned into a permanent position. Sambourne made up for his lack of artistic training by using photography to improve his illustrations. He had his family and friends dress up in costumes and pose, acting out the ideas for his illustrations. This soon led to a passion for photography which he pursued as avidly as he did his cartooning. Sambourne’s home, located at 18 Stafford Terrace, Kensington, is remarkable in that all the interiors have been preserved by his family. It looks much the same today as it did over 100 years ago. The tour through the home is also remarkable. You are greeted at the door by the Sambourne family’s housekeeper who over the next hour gives you a running monologue of their life based on journals they kept. The home is very Victorian, but modern in it’s outlook. William Morris wallpaper and stained glass windows remarkably similar to those at Red House are still in place.



Kensington and Notting Hill are beautiful residential areas and it was nice to spend an afternoon walking through them.


The shops are just as nice as those in the busier areas in London, but are less crowded and the atmosphere is more relaxed. We found an art store with remarkably low prices. I bought myself a new set of sketching pencils.

We also discovered Hotel Chocolat. Hotel looks like it’s name, a trendy boutique hotel lobby with sleek brown and black walls. The chocolates are displayed like artwork, making the store sensual on several levels. I splurged and bought a few to taste.

Next we walked to the Fredrick Leighton House at 12 Holland Park Road. Leighton’s Pre-Raphaelite style has seen a resurgence in the last few years and he is most know today for “Flaming June.”

Leighton was famous in his day and painted portraits of England’s nobility. Unlike Sambourne he was paid very well for his work and put much of that money into his house.



He created for himself a fantasy land similar in vision to that of William Morris, but very different in character. The main floor features the Arab Hall, a soaring Arabian inspired dome lined in gorgeous turquoise tile. It must have been incredibly exotic to his Victorian contemporaries. Leighton had a large studio here and renovated several times before his death in 1896. Today the home is a museum and outreach art center. The current exhibition upstairs features the work of a Muslim fashion designer.

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