Frederick Leighton (1830-1896), the most famous painter of Aestheticism of the nineteenth century in England, is highly regarded in the history of English painting. He overshadowed Reynolds with his brilliant artistic style and became a synonym for the Royal Academy. Unlike many famous painters of the Victorian era, Leighton, the president of the Royal Academy, was not a student of the Royal Academy and was not even educated in England.
Frederick Leighton was born on December 3, 1830, in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England, into a family of doctors. His father, a lover of classical art, profoundly influenced the young Leighton, who painted on his own from the age of 9. At 10, he traveled to Rome with his father to study with a painter, where he acquired knowledge of painting. He went to Germany when he was 13 and studied for a time at the Frankfurt School of Fine Arts. At the age of 14, he moved to Florence, the capital of art, where he expanded his artistic horizons.
At the age of 22, he went to Rome for formal training in paintings and began to create his own art. That year he completed his first major work, Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna, a historical subject of grand spectacle and grandeur, demonstrating his temperament and talent. In 1855, Leighton returned to his homeland, England, and Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna was purchased by Queen Victoria after an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, making him a rising star in the British painting world. In 1858, Leighton participated in the Pre-Raphaelite movement but was too influenced by classical art and went the way of academic classicism.
In 1859, at the age of 29, Leighton settled in London to serve the Queen and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1868. And in 1878, Leighton took over as President of the Royal Academy. During his tenure as a "court painter", he painted in an increasingly sweet and lyrical style to cater to the interests of the upper class. He made up for the lack of elegance and refinement in English art with soft shapes, full colors, and delicate drawings, often giving the images depicted a cheerful and light temperament. Later, he added to this characteristic with a slightly shy and sad sentimental tone. The Bath of Psyche is a reflection of Leighton's last style of painting, depicting the bathing of a nude woman in great detail, showing a charming physique and a mood of weariness and sadness.
Late Life and Death
In his later years, Leighton was stricken with illness but continued to create. His art was so highly honored that in 1886 when Leighton was 56 years old, the Queen made him a British peer, known as Baron Leighton. He died the day after he was knighted, the shortest time in British history to receive a knighthood. His will was: "Give my love to the Academy."
Flaming June is one of Leighton's masterpieces, displaying his highly classical connotations, and is also considered one of the greatest paintings of the Victorian era. Some speculated that Leighton deliberately modeled the image on Dorothy Dene, a famous English actress of the time. Some speculated that Leighton came up with the idea when he saw a sleeping model in his studio. It is also said that the composition was inspired by Michelangelo's sculpture Night. Another anecdote about this painting is that in 1960, when the painting world rejected the Victorian academic style, the painting was offered for as low as $140 but was acquired at a reduced price by the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico, where it still resides.