Frederic Leighton

Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton PRA (3 December 1830 – 25 January 1896), known as Sir Frederic Leighton, Bt, between 1886 and 1896, was an English painter and sculptor. His works depicted historical, biblical and classical subject matter. Leighton was bearer of the shortest-lived peerage in history; after only one day his hereditary peerage became extinct.

Leighton was born in Scarborough to a family in the import and export business. He was educated at University College School, London. He then received his artistic training on the European continent, first from Eduard Von Steinle and then from Giovanni Costa. When in Florence, aged 24, where he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti, he painted the procession of the Cimabue Madonna through the Borgo Allegri. He lived in Paris from 1855 to 1859, where he met Ingres, Delacroix, Corot and Millet.

In 1860, he moved to London, where he associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. He designed Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s tomb for Robert Browning in the English Cemetery, Florence in 1861. In 1864 he became an associate of the Royal Academy and in 1878 he became its President (1878–96). His 1877 sculpture, Athlete Wrestling with a Python, was considered at its time to inaugurate a renaissance in contemporary British sculpture, referred to as the New Sculpture. His paintings represented Britain at the great 1900 Paris Exhibition.

Flaming June is a painting by Lord Frederic Leighton, produced in 1895. Painted with oil paints on a 47" x 47" square canvas, it is widely considered to be Leighton's magnum opus, showing his classicist nature. It is thought that the woman portrayed alludes to the figures of sleeping nymphs and naiads the Greeks often sculpted. The (toxic) Oleander branch in the top right, symbolises the fragile link between sleep and death.

Leighton was knighted at Windsor in 1878, and was created a Baronet, of Holland Park Road in the Parish of St Mary Abbots, Kensington, in the County of Middlesex, eight years later. He was the first painter to be given a peerage, in the New Year Honours List of 1896. The patent creating him Baron Leighton, of Stretton in the County of Shropshire, was issued on 24 January 1896; Leighton died the next day of angina pectoris.

As he was unmarried, after his death his Barony was extinguished after existing for only a day; this is a record in the Peerage. His house in Holland Park, London has been turned into a museum, the Leighton House Museum. It contains a number of his drawings and paintings, as well as some of his sculptures (including Athlete Wrestling with a Python). The house also features many of Leighton’s inspirations, including his collection of Iznik tiles. Its centrepiece is the magnificent Arab Hall.

via Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton 

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4 Responses to Frederic Leighton

  1. alfy says:

    Nice posting. I have always admired Leighton. He was a “cinematic” painter before cinema was invented, in the sense that his big canvases and sweeping themes were a kind of stationary cinema.
    At one of his exhibitions there were a series of quite small (a foot square) pictures of Mediterranean subjects. He liked to work out of doors in the sun, and make studies of interesting topics. His big canvases were, of course, painted in the studio but he made continual use of these little studies to bring that air of verisimilitude to the big themes he chose.

  2. Deskarati says:

    I love this type of art too Alfy, I have prints of Leighton and Albert Moore at home. I must do a post on the pre – raphaelites soon, a very interesting period.

  3. Steve B says:

    You might find it worthwhile to visit

    This site has some examples of Leighton’s work at High Resolution

  4. alfy says:

    Thank you, Steve, for the excellent link. A wealth of Leightoniana. I especially enjoyed the landscape studies that I had referred to in my first comment. He was an Impressionist before Impressionism was invented. Simple blocks of colour carrying the essence of the scene before him. Obviously done quite quickly while the conditions did not change too much. Very impressive.

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