Frederic, Lord Leighton, Clytie. Courtesy Leighton House Museum / HLF
Staff at Leighton House Museum are celebrating after purchasing the last painting by one of Britain’s greatest 19th Century artists and returning it to the place it was created.
Thanks to an Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £337,500, Lord Frederic Leighton’s work Clytie will now stay, not only in Britain, but at Leighton House, where the Victorian painter had his studio.
The painting depicts the nymph Clytie with arms outstretched bidding farewell to the sun-god Apollo who is conveyed by bright blazing sunlight. It is seen as one of the last major works of high Victorian art and was Leighton’s final major work, remaining unfinished at the time of his death.
Lord Frederic Leighton was one of the giants of late 19th century British art and was president of the Royal Academy from 1878 until 1896. His last painting is currently owned by a German art collector and is on loan to Leighton House Museum. It is currently being displayed in the studio in which it was created and was due to return to the continent in October 2008.
It will now be purchased by the Leighton House Museum in Holland Park, Kensington, where it will remain on permanent display as the centrepiece of the museum’s collection.
“I am absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund award has made it possible to purchase this enormously significant work for the house,” said Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown, cabinet member for Regeneration, Environmental Management and Leisure, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
“The acquisition of Clytie will fill a significant gap in the museum’s collection and contribute to our aims and ambitions in preserving Leighton’s legacy and bringing it to the wider public.”
An education project that includes an artist-in-residence at the museum for a four-month period accompanies the acquisition of the painting. Local schools and community groups will be targeted and workshops organised on the techniques and styles employed by Leighton and some of his contemporaries.
The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, also stepped in at the last minute with the final £7,500 needed to acquire the painting for £420,000. An earlier amount of £75,000 was also awarded by them towards the purchase of the work. The remaining amount came from local and museum funds.