Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Victorian treasures from council’s private collection go on show

A council has revealed its private collection of Victorian era paintings – donated by a 19th century artist and collector – to the public.

Hammersmith and Fulham council has opened an exhibition of 21 paintings at Leighton House museum in Holland Park Road, Kensington.

The works are part of the council’s larger collection of 52 paintings that were donated by Cecil French, after he died in 1953. 

Seven paintings by Edward Burne-Jones will be at the centre of the exhibition (Picture: Jaron James)

Mr French left 153 of his paintings and drawings to the public and 52 to the council – including 25 pieces by Edward Burne-Jones.

Mr Burne-Jones lived between 1833 and 1898 in a studio-home called The Grange in North End Road, Fulham.

Because of this link, Mr French donated the artworks to the council – some rarely seen before. 

Seven of Mr Burne-Jones’ paintings appear at the centre of the exhibition, including The Wheel of Fortune from 1875, one of Mr Burne-Jones’s best-known compositions.

The exhibition also includes the work Apricots from 1866, by Albert Moore.

It’s one of the artist’s earliest paintings in the Aesthetic style – an artistic movement in the late nineteenth century promoting ‘art for art’s sake’.

The exhibition also explores Mr French as a collector. Born in Dublin in 1879, Mr French lived through a period of huge change in the art world, as he witnessed the rapid decline in the popularity of Victorian art towards the end of the 19th century.

Apricots from 1866, by Albert Moore (Picture: Jaron James)

He trained as a painter, attending first the Royal Academy schools, in Burlington Gardens, Piccadilly, before he went onto the Hubert von Herkomer’s school in Bushey, Hertfordshire. 

After completing his studies, he exhibited a small number of pictures and published two books of poetry, but it was as a collector that he found his real vocation.

Councillor Andrew Jones, Hammersmith and Fulham cabinet member for the economy, said: “Showcasing work from our Cecil French Collection at Leighton House is a major milestone toward our aim to make these astounding pieces of art available to residents and the wider public.

“It also brings us closer to our long-term aspiration for the collection to be permanently on display in our borough.”

The Victorian Treasures from the Cecil French Bequest exhibition runs until February 25, 2024 at Leighton House.

Pictured top: A visitor at the Victorian Treasures from the Cecil French Bequest exhibition (Picture: Jaron James)

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