In order to solve the problem of winter smog, Leighton added a large ‘winter studio’ to the house that looked like a greenhouse on legs. His last addition was the ‘silk room’ filled with paintings and sculptures, several of them works by artists from a battalion known as the Artists’ Rifles – a voluntary force, founded in 1859, of painters, musicians, actors and architects – that Leighton commanded in its early years. Leighton was elevated to baron in 1896 but died of a heart attack at his Kensington home a day later, becoming the shortest-lived hereditary peerage in British history.
Preserved artists’ studios are always magnets for visitors, and while Leighton House is atypical, Life Meets Art is crammed with other examples. Among the most famous is the East Hampton barn where Jackson Pollock created his famous drip paintings, traces of which are still to be seen on the floor. “People are always fascinated by where art comes from. It’s a mystery even to the artist often,” Louisa Buck, contemporary art correspondent for the Art Newspaper, tells BBC Culture. “The studio is the crucible; it’s where the alchemical process all begins.”
Many of the interiors in Life Meets Art are of their time, but others feel surprisingly modern for their era. One striking example is the house of Danish furniture designer and architect Finn Juhl, which could have jumped straight from the pages of a current interiors magazine. The open-plan residence with its cool colours, classic Modernist chairs and hand-crafted everything anticipates today’s interiors to perfection.