Friday, December 5, 2008

THE ULTIMATE RENAISSANCE MAN



British painter Frederic Leighton.
Photo by David Wilkie Wynfield
From Wikimedia Commons



Frederick Leighton (1830-1896)
Self-portrait as a Boy
Oil on canvas
Private collection
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center



Frederick Leighton (1830-1896)
Self-portrait
Oil on canvas, 1880
Private collection
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Leighton enrolled in the Berlin School of art in his early teens. The following year he enrolled in an Art Academy in Florence. The Nazarenes and Italian Renaissance painters were considerable early influences. His cosmopolitan early life exposed him to a wider range of influences than any other English painter of his day. Many people now believe that his decorative pictures of the 1870s represent his best work, though his large classical pictures remain extremely impressive.
(Source: ARC)
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, 1861. In 1864 he became an associate of the Royal Academy and in 1878 he became its president.
Leighton was knighted at Windsor in 1878, and was created a baronet 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 Salop, was issued on 24 January 1896; Leighton died the next day of angina pectoris. As he was unmarried his Barony was extinguished after existing for only a day; this is an all-time 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.
(Source: lordfredericleighton.co.uk)
Leighton House was one of the most remarkable buildings of the 19th century. Built to designs by George Aitchison, the house was extended and embellished over the next 30 years to create a private palace of art. The Arab Hall houses Leighton’s priceless collection of over 1,000 Syrian tiles and important works by Leighton and his contemporaries are on display.
Download PDF: Why did Leighton Collect Art? (file size 403kb)
Download PDF: Collecting Art in the 19th Century (file size 466kb)
(Copyright © 1998–2007 The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea)


Phoebe
Oil on canvas
Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Comment from ARC Chairman Fred Ross, the present owner of Leighton's Phoebe:
This painting is one of Leighton's most compelling single figure works. The entirely original perspective of viewing her on a slightly upward angle gives her a regal and monumental elegance which, along with the deep tonality of the background, accentuates her subtle expression of bemused interest and curiosity. The viewer is at once also curious about her circumstance and entranced by her vivid glowing features and riveting beauty.
The model was Dorothy Dene, an actress who was one of Leighton's favorite models. She appears also in Flaming June and The Bath of Psyche. Leighton was instrumental in helping her with her acting career. Dene was her stage name. Her real name was Alice Pullan, one of four daughters and her family was long time friends of Leighton.
It currently hangs between Dicksee's Yseult and Waterhouse's Tristan and Isolde in our collection, and not only qualitatively holds up to those two masterpieces, but nearly eclipses the entire space around them.
She appears to be thinking, "Physical Beauty is never enough ... from one who knows". Despite Dene's help from Leighton, her acting career fizzled, and was left depending on him for support and social position for many years.
Comment from ARC Webmaster, Iian Neill:
Even on the basis of a digitized scan one can see that this ranks among one of Leighton's finest portraits. The creams and golds of Phoebe's clothes and flesh suggest the Venetian glories of Veronese and Titian.
(From ARC)

Works by the artist
By Leighton Gallery at museumSyndicate.com
(Website designed and maintained by Jonathan Dunder):
A Girl
A Girl Feeding Peacocks
1863 AD
A Nile Woman
A Roman Lady
1859 AD
Acme and Septimus
1868 AD
An Italian Lady
Antigone


Antigone
Oil on canvas
Private collection
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Antigone was a legendary heroine in Greek mythology. According to myth, she was the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. As the tragedy of Oedipus unfolds, we learn that Jocasta was in reality the mother of Oedipus, making Antigone the child of an incestuous union. With this horrible realization, Oedipus maims himself and goes into exile. His faithful daughter Antigone accompanies him, assisting her now blind father.
In this painting, Lord Leighton has represented Antigone as a tragic heroine. Using dramatic contrasts of light and dark, Leighton leads the viewer to focus on the expression on Antigone's face - she appears to be suffering from some troubled emotion, but still remains a brave and noble figure. By depicting a bust rather than a full-length view of Antigone we are forced to concentrate on the heroine exclusively and not, instead, the painting's setting.
The model for this painting was Dorothy Dene. Dene was a lovely actress who often posed for Leighton, and indeed, her features appear in a number of the artist's works.
(From loggia.com)
At the Fountain
1892 AD
Biondina
1879 AD
Captive Andromache
1888 AD

Captive Andromache
Oil on canvas
Manchester City Art Galleries, Manchester, UK


This painting depicting Captive Andromache was inspired by an ancient epic - the Iliad of Homer. In the poem, the character of Andromache is brought vividly to life. And Lord Leighton in turn translated the drama of the Greek heroine's story into a compelling, timeless image.
According to Homer's Iliad, Andromache was the wife of the Trojan hero Hector. During the course of the Trojan War, Hector was killed, and his lovely young wife taken captive by the victorious Greeks. Andromache eventually became the mistress of the conquering hero Neoptolemus (the son of Achilles). She was treated as a prize of war, and forced to accompany her new master to the far-off land of Epirus.
The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy with the following quotation (a translation by Elizabeth Barrett Browning):
Some standing by,
Marking thy tears fall, shall say 'This is she,
The wife of that same Hector that fought best
Of all the Trojans when all fought for Troy'.
Andromache's loss and sadness are evident in this painting. The Greek heroine stands alone in the center of the composition, covered by symbolic black draperies. While she stands motionless, head downcast, she is framed by active men, women, and children who are clad in bright, vibrant clothing. This visual contrast emphasizes Andromache's poignant isolation
(From loggia.com)
Clytemnestra
Courtyard of a Mosque at Broussa
1867 AD
David
1865 AD
Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon
1869 AD


Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon
Oil on canvas
Private collection


In Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon, Victorian artist Frederic Leighton uses what can be considered one of his artistic signatures - an image in which a solitary female figure is the focus. In addition, this poignant work also reveals that Leighton was a master of not only depicting Classical subjects, but also creating moving and memorable paintings.
The topic of Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon was inspired by Greek mythology and drama. Electra was the daughter of King Agamemnon. In legend, Agamemnon was murdered by his wife - and Electra's mother - Clytemnestra. This tragedy haunted Electra, and in the painting, we see the heroine's anguish over the death of her father.
Electra stands alone in the center of the composition, holding her hands to her head in a gesture of lamentation. She is covered in long, dark draperies, the color a symbol of mourning. On Electra's right, there is a Doric column upon which a basket of flowers rests. The remaining details in the painting are simple but subtly effective, creating an atmosphere that recalls ancient Greece. In addition, the somber and subdued colors - soft earth tones - reinforce the feeling of sadness.
This painting shares similarities in both theme and subject with Lachrymae, one of Lord Leighton's much later works. However, while Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon deals with an event from Classical drama and myth, Lachrymae demonstrates that the artist could create paintings with much more abstract meanings with equal success.
(From loggia.com)
Eucharis, A Girl with a Basket of Fruit
1863 AD
Faticida
1894 AD
Garden of an Inn, Capri
1859 AD
Girl in Green
Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea
1871

Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea
Oil on canvas
Private collection


Artist Frederic Leighton's ability to create sumptuous paintings of Classical subjects was legendary. In works such as Captive Andromache and The Return of Persephone, Leighton demonstrated his genius at capturing the melancholy beauty of Greek mythology, and established himself as a master of Victorian Classicism. However, Lord Leighton also excelled at evoking the mood of nostalgia for the Golden Age of ancient Greece that so appealed to Nineteenth century audiences. And this talent is revealed in a painting such as Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea.
In this image, we see how deftly the artist could conjure up confections to delight the eyes and refresh the spirit. Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea is a masterpiece of decorative charm. There is no real subject, no heavy message - only a lovely group of women arranged in a pleasing and harmonious composition. It is the clothing worn by the four women that especially establishes the ancient setting, for these fluttering draperies are inspired by Greek garments. Leighton has used bright, warm colors in the draperies, ranging from a delicate ivory to a rich russet. These earth tones contrast beautifully with the soft blues of the water.
The decorative quality of Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea has led scholars such as Christopher Newall to label the painting as "...a seminal work of the Aesthetic Movement." Indeed, it is easy to see the similarities between the painting and pieces by Aesthetic artists like James McNeill Whistler and G.F. Watts.
(From loggia.com)
Greek Girls Playing at Ball
1889 AD
Gulnihal
1886 AD
Ida Adrian and Frederic Marryat
Invocation

Invocation
Oil on canvas
Private collection


Invocation is one of artist Frederic Leighton's beautifully compelling images in which the focus is on a single female figure. In this painting, the spectator's eyes are drawn to the depiction of the woman who dominates the scene. She is clad in white draperies that are obviously inspired by the clothing worn by women in ancient Greek art. The woman also wears an expression of longing or pleading as she gazes up at a tiny golden figure (only the very corner of which, incidentally, is visible in the painting) on a fluted column.
At the base of the column there is a cluster of leaves and fruit. Dusky grapes cascade down the platform, their dark color complemented by the greens, golds, and russets of the lush leaves. This appealing still life can be interpreted as an offering, and the column an altar. The tiny golden statue is in fact an image of some Classical goddess, and it is to this object that the white-robed woman is paying homage. With these observations in mind, the subject of the painting becomes much more clear - the woman is in fact begging assistance from an unidentified goddess. The Classical details in the background also enhance the ancient setting.
Author and Leighton scholar Christopher Newall suggests that the woman in this work is either a dancer or singer who is looking to her Muse for inspiration. This is a perfectly plausible - not to mention charming - interpretation of the painting. Certainly, the title Invocation also reinforces this explanation. As with many of Lord Leighton's later works, however, one can enjoy the exquisite beauty of the painting without troubling too much over its exact meaning.
(From loggia.com)
Jonathan's Token to David
1868 AD
Joseph of Arimathea
Lachrymae
1895 AD


Lachrymae
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan


The work titled Lachrymae was painted near the end of Frederic Leighton's life, during a time when the artist created some of his most moving and personal works. Indeed, this striking image shares some of the melancholy beauty and intensity of Clytie, another painting made during this late period.
In Lachrymae, Lord Leighton has focused once again on depicting a solitary female figure. This woman stands in the center of the composition, draped in dark, Classical looking robes that hang in deep vertical folds. These folds are visually echoed by the flutes of the Doric column upon which the woman leans, and this vertical emphasis is further reinforced by the tall narrow canvas. The woman's arm leans on the column, breaking the strict verticality of the work, and her head rests against her outstretched limb. Taken together, the woman's lowered head, along with the dark draperies, suggests the sadness or anguish of someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one.
The subject of the painting is not entirely clear. Although the work evokes a mood of sadness and loss, the specific details of the story are not revealed to us. Some scholars have seen this work as a personal commentary on Leighton's increasingly poor health, or even a sort of tribute to the artist's late father. Interpretations aside, however, we can appreciate the fact that Frederic Leighton has left us with a beautiful and poignant reminder of the genius of a Victorian master.
(From loggia.com)
Light of the Harem
1880 AD
May Sartoris
1860 AD
Memories
1883 AD
Mother and Child
1865 AD

Mother and Child
Oil on canvas
Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Artist Frederic Leighton demonstrates that he was truly a man of his times in the work Mother and Child (Cherries). In this painting, we see an example of a cozy, charming Victorian interior scene, complete with a beautiful young mother and her adorable child. The title was obviously inspired by the action of the little girl feeding ripe cherries to her reclining mother.
Both figures are seated on the floor, resting comfortably on an opulently hued Oriental carpet. Details, such as a vase of lilies and a golden screen, form the backdrop for this delightful drama. Everything in the painting is equally visually enchanting, from the flower petals to the glossy red cherries to the sophisticated sheen of the woman's gown. Here again, Lord Leighton displays his prowess as an artist.
It is worth noting that the sense of sentimentality that was so much a part of Victorian art and life is captured in this splendid image. F. G. Stephens made this revealing comment about Mother and Child (Cherries): "Another picture, a very charming one indeed, illustrates what is the most popular side of Mr. Leighton's art."
(From loggia.com)
Mrs. James Guthrie
1866 AD
Music Lesson
1877 AD
Nausicaa
1878 AD
Pavonia
1859 AD
Phoebe
Portrait
Portrait of a Lady
Return of Persephone
1891 AD
Richard Burton
1875 AD
Self-Portrait
1880 AD
Self-Portrait as a Boy
Sibyl
Sisters
1862 AD
Solitude
Songs Without Words
1861 AD
Study
Study II
Study of a Lemon Tree
1859 AD
Study of Drapery for 'The Last Watch of Hero'
1887 AD
Study of Drapery for 'The Last Watch of Hero'
1887 AD
Study, At a Reading Desk
1877 AD
Summer Noon
The Countess Brownlow
1879 AD
The Dancers
The Death of Brunelleschi
1852 AD
The Golden Hours
1864 AD
The Head of a Girl
The Maid with the Yellow Hair
1895 AD
The Painter's Honeymoon
1864 AD
The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets over the Dead Bodies of Romeo and Juliet
1855 AD
Untitled
Wedded
1882 AD
Winding the Skein
1878 AD


Leighton's studio, 1880s
From the website of Bob Speel


Leighton himself did not think that he was a great painter. He said “Thank goodness I was never clever at anything.” He may or may not have been a great painter, but he was extremely clever at most things. [ Most Victorian scholars today consider him one of perhaps 8 to 10 from the period who will ultimately be considered on a par with the all time greats from prior centuries. - Ed ] Leighton was a creator of beautiful pictures, some of them, for instance Flaming June masterpieces, and among the most memorable images of the nineteenth century. His smaller decorative works of the 1860s which he regarded as unimportant, were often immaculately painted, and very beautiful.
Throughout his career he produced many small pictures of the heads of young women, which bring high prices today, and deservedly so. He was a portrait painter of outstanding gifts, his picture of Sir Richard Burton coming immediately to mind. The large classical paintings which he himself would have regarded as the very core of his achievement are sometime less successful, but two of them And The Sea Gave Up the Dead Which Were In It and The Garden of The Hesperides are masterpieces. His gorgeous picture Mother and Child gives the lie to the belief that he was unable to express emotion and tenderness in his paintings. He was, I think, the ultimate Renaissance man. With his intelligence, principles, and capacity for hard work, he would have been a great success in any area of public life. Frederic Leighton, Prime Minister, does not stretch the imagination.
Frederic Leighton as well as being the leading figure in English art in the second half of the nineteenth century was one of the greatest Englishmen of his time.
(From Biography of Lord Leighton, by Paul Ripley in ARC)
Frederic, Lord Leighton was - and still is - an important and influential Victorian artist. During the Nineteenth century, Leighton reigned as one of the most fashionable and significant painters of his time. Indeed, he was so well regarded as a painter that he was made President of the Royal Academy in 1878.
And the reason that Lord Leighton was so successful during his lifetime is simple - his paintings brilliantly captured the Victorian nostalgia and longing for the glorious "Golden Age" of ancient Greece and Rome. In classically inspired works, Leighton depicted an idealized vision of the past that perfectly appealed to the sensibilities of the time.
Combining a flawless painting technique with a keen sense for color and composition, the artist created some of the most beautiful - and memorable - images made during the Nineteenth century.
(From loggia.com)

Timeline:
1864 - Associate of the Royal Academy
1868 - Royal Academy Academician
1878 - President of the Royal Academy
1878 - L├ęgion d'honneur Officer
1878 - Knighted
1889 - Associate member of the Institute of France
1896 - Raised to the British Peerage
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


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