Frederick Leighton : The English Sculpture and Painter
Frederic Leighton, or Sir Frederic (1st Baron) Leighton as he came to be officially recognized, was an English sculptor and painter from the mid 19th century. Frederic Leighton was born in the city of Scarborough, in England on the 3rd of December 1830. His father made a moderate living as a tradesman who dealt with small scale import and exports of local items. The young Frederic spent his early years in Scarborough and by the time he was a youth, he had enrolled at the University College School in London.
Frederic had always expressed a passion for the arts and received much of his artistic training from Eduard von Steinle, and Giovanni Coasta; both being on the European subcontinent. Frederic Leighton also traveled to Florence when he was 24 years old, there he enrolled at the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arti where he was entrusted with painting Cimabue Madonna’s procession as it passed through the Borgo Allegri.
The young Leighton spent the next few years of his life in Paris where he met other notable artists of his era including Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, Eugene Delacroix, Jean Francois Millet, and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. By 1860, Leighton had moved to London where he came to associate himself with the Pre-Raphaelites. It was during this time that he also designed the tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning for Robert Browning at the English Cemetery in Florence, 1861.
His efforts as a sculptor earned him the right of becoming associate at the Royal Academy for which he would also be elected as the President in 1878. Not much of Leighton’s private life is known as he did not keep a diary, but he is said to have had an affair with one of his models and there have been rumors of an illegitimate child as well. Leighton died on the 25th of January, 1896 when he was aged just 65. He is buried at London.
Artistic Style, Influences, Major Works
Much of Frederic Leighton’s artistic style revolves around the classical, historical and biblical subject matters. He has produced some of the most iconic sculptures in English history, with his 1877 masterpiece “Athlete Wrestling with a Python” is believed to have inaugurated a whole new renaissance in contemporary English sculpture; it has since then been referred to as the New Sculpture too. Apart from being an excellent sculptor, Frederic Leighton was also a good painter too and many of his paintings were selected to represent Britain at the great Paris Exhibition of 1900.
Some of his most acclaimed works include the paintings “Daedalus and Icarus” (1869), “The Villa Malta” (1860), “The Discovery of Juliet Apparently Lifeless” (1858), “The Painter’s Honeymoon” (1864), “Mother and Child” (1865), “Greek Girls Picking Up Pebbles by the Sea” (1871), “Music Lesson” (1877), “Winding the Skein” (1878), “Flaming June” (1895), “Teresina” (1874), “Wedded” (1882), “Light of the Harem” (1880), “The Garden of the Hesperides” (1892), “The Bath of Psyche” (1890), “Captive Andromache” (1888), “Death of Brunelleschi” (1852), “The Fisherman and the Siren” (1856), “The Discovery of Juliet” (1858), “Phoebe” (late 1800s), “A Bather”, “Cymon and Iphigenia” (1884), “Daphnephoria” (1876), among others.
Some of his notable sculptures that became famous over the last century, especially after his death include “The Sluggard”, and “The Last Watch of Hero” among others. Frederic Leighton was knighted in 1878 at Windsor and was granted the official title of Baronet in 1886.
He has the distinction of being the first painter in British history to be given a peerage, and he made another record for the fact that his peerage did not last more than a year since he died in 1896.
His legacy lives on though, and he did see a lot of posthumous success. His residence in Holland Park has since then been transformed into the Leighton House Museum. This museum preserves many of Frederic Leighton’s personal belongings, his rooms, as well as a collection of some of his paintings and drawings.
This museum also contains some paintings that were gifted to Leighton by some of the contemporary artists of his time, these include works dedicated by the Old Masters and Sir John Everett Millais. The most famous attraction at this museum is probably the Arab Hall.