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Artists Frederic Leighton
Frederic Leighton Photo

Frederic Leighton

British Painter and Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Aesthetic Art, Neoclassicism

Born: December 3, 1830 - Scarborough, England

Died: January 25, 1896 - London, England

Frederic Leighton Timeline

Quotes

"[S]incerity is the well-spring of all lasting achievement, and [...] no good thing ever took root in untruth or self-deception [...] work that does not spring from the heart has no roots, and will of certainty wither and perish"
Frederic Leighton
"[T]he gathered experience of past ages is a precious heritage and not an irksome load; and [...] nothing will fortify [young artists] better for the future, and free development, than the reverent and loving study of the past."
Frederic Leighton
"We have within us the faculty for a range of emotions of vast compass, of exquisite subtlety, and of irresistible force, to which Art and Art alone amongst human forms of expression has the key'"
Frederic Leighton
"I am hand-in-glove with all my enemies the Pre-Raphaelites"
Frederic Leighton

"I do not believe [...] that they who, in our time, have wedded their lives to art have clasped to their breasts a lovely but lifeless corpse."

Synopsis

Lord Frederic Leighton was one of the most influential and virtuosic artists of the Victorian era, a brilliant and stylistically adventurous painter of bodies and landscapes, who later in his career launched a new movement in British sculpture. Following a peripatetic childhood, he spent his early adulthood touring Europe, developing an almost impossibly wide circle of acquaintances spanning the full gamut of contemporary artistic schools, from Academic History Painting to Naturalism, Romanticism, and, most significantly, Aestheticism. His own style gradually developed into a kind of hyper-real Neoclassicism, which prefigured the dreamlike vividness of the Pre-Raphaelites while leaning on the exotic, erotic mythography of Symbolism. His emphasis on beauty - particularly the beauty of the male body - pre-empted the art-for-art's-sake decadence of the fin de siècle, but he remained a bastion of the artistic establishment, ultimately becoming President of the Royal Academy and a hereditary peer. Several of his artworks, including An Athlete Wrestling with a Python and Flaming June, are now recognized as seminal works of their time.

Key Ideas

Frederic Leighton's work impresses with an intensity that seems entirely original. At the same time, it represents an important transitional phase between the Neoclassical and Academic History Painting of the early nineteenth century and those avant-garde movements of the later nineteenth century - Symbolism, Pre-Raphaelitism - which continued to place an emphasis on technical precision. Early works such as Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna (1853-55) predict the surreal vividness of John William Waterhouse or Edward Burne-Jones, but their subject matter remains historical and mythological in a more traditional sense.
Though primarily remembered as a painter, Leighton is also credited as having inspired the development of New Sculpture, a movement in British sculpture which emerged from the circle around French sculptor Jules Dalou in 1870s London. The style was given vital impetus by the display, in 1877, of Leighton's first sculpture An Athlete Wrestling with a Python, which was seen to bring a new physical dynamism and naturalism to a tired medium.
Though his own sexuality remains a mystery, Frederic Leighton's work - particularly his late statuary - has been celebrated for its vivid depictions of male beauty. Standing at the forefront of a whole late-nineteenth-century tradition - perhaps most evident in Symbolism and the Decadent Movement - works like The Sluggard (1885) refine the homoerotic energy of Renaissance sculpture, presenting the male body as gentle, seductive, and physically imposing in equal parts.

Biography

Frederic Leighton Photo

Childhood

Frederic Leighton was born to Dr. Frederic Septimus and Augusta Susan Leighton on the third of December 1830, in the British seaside town of Scarborough. His family was cultured and well-connected; his grandfather, Sir James Leighton, had worked as a physician to the Russian royal family. In 1832, Frederic moved to London along with his parents and his two sisters, Alexandra and Augusta.

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Frederic Leighton Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Frederic Leighton
Interactive chart with Frederic Leighton's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Jean-Auguste-Dominique IngresJean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Eugène DelacroixEugène Delacroix
Jean-Baptiste-Camille CorotJean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
MichelangeloMichelangelo
Paolo VeronesePaolo Veronese

Personal Contacts

Dante Gabriel RossettiDante Gabriel Rossetti
Alfred Elmore
William Powell Frith
E. M. Ward

Movements

NeoclassicismNeoclassicism
RomanticismRomanticism
SymbolismSymbolism
Aesthetic ArtAesthetic Art
History Painting

Influences on Artist
Frederic Leighton
Frederic Leighton
Years Worked: 1847 - 1896
Influenced by Artist

Artists

John William Waterhouse
Edward Burne-JonesEdward Burne-Jones
Dante Gabriel RossettiDante Gabriel Rossetti
Edward Onslow-Ford
Harry Bates

Personal Contacts

Dante Gabriel RossettiDante Gabriel Rossetti
Alfred Elmore
William Powell Frith
E. M. Ward

Movements

The Pre-RaphaelitesThe Pre-Raphaelites
The Holland Park Circle
New Sculpture
SymbolismSymbolism
Aesthetic ArtAesthetic Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Loïc Desplanques

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Greg Thomas

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Loïc Desplanques
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Greg Thomas
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