Frederic (Lord) Leighton
The Return of Persephone (1891)
In Greek mythology, Persephone was the Queen of the underworld, the young maiden, and a daughter of Demeter and Zeus. In the Olympian version, she also becomes the consort of Hades when he becomes the deity that governs the underworld.
The figure of Persephone is very well-known today. Her story has great emotional power: an innocent maiden, a mother's grief over her abduction, and great joy after her daughter is returned. It is also cited frequently as a paradigm of myths that explain natural processes, with the descent and return of the goddess bringing about the change of seasons.
In Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed. She may be carrying a sheaf of grain and smiling demurely with the "Archaic smile" of the Kore of Antenor.
Leighton was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire to a family in the import & export profession.
He was educated at University College School London. He then received his legal training on the European continent, first from Edward von Steinle and then from Giovanni Costa.
He lived in Paris from 1855 to 1859, where he met Ingres, Delacroix, Corot and Millet.
In 1860, he moved to London, England, 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.
The Leighton House Drawings Collection
Leighton is acknowledged as one of the great Victorian draughtsmen. The Leighton Drawings Project aimed to catalogue, conserve, photograph and exhibit the collection of almost 700 drawings by Leighton at Leighton House Museum. It was carried out between 2005 and 2007 with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Leighton was knighted at Windsor in 1878, he was created a baronet eight years later.
Lord Leighton - Bibliography
- Frederick George Stephens, Artists At Home, London: Sampson Low, 1884
- Ernest Rhys, Sir Frederic Leighton, Bart., PRA, An Illustrated Chronicle, London: George Bell & Sons, 1895
- The Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by the Late Lord Leighton of Stretton, PRA London: Royal Academy, 1897
- Wyke Bayliss, Five Great Painters of the Victorian Era, London: Sampson, Low 1902
- Emily (Mrs Russell) Barrington, The Life, Letters and Works of Frederic Leighton 2 vols., London: George Allen, 1906
- Leonee and Richard Ormond, Lord Leighton, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1975
- Richard Ormond, Lord Leighton's Frescoes in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1975
- Christopher Newall, The Art of Lord Leighton, Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1990
- Russell Ash, Lord Leighton, London: Pavilion Books Ltd, 1995
- Various: Frederic Leighton 1830 -1896, exhibitioncatalogue, London: Royal Academy, 1996
- Tim Barringer and Elizabeth Prettejohn (eds), Frederic Leighton: Antiquity Renaissance Modernity, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999
Article By: Dave Roberts.
First Published: 2007.
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