During the early 1850s, Leighton lived in Rome, where he came into contact with the Nazarenes. In 1855 he moved to Paris, took a studio in the rue Pigalle, and adopted the principles of l’art pour l’art, a philosophy that Leighton would help to promulgate in England, where he moved in 1859. As a member of the Hogarth Club he met many fellow artists and prospective patrons; after a sojourn in Italy he took a studio at 2 Orme Square and thereafter regarded London as his home. In the early 1860s Leighton’s art did not always fare well at the Royal Academy. The paintings seem to have been too “aesthetic” for Victorian taste and unsympathetic to the prevailing narrative style. Nevertheless, he was elected an associate of the Academy in 1864 and a full member in 1868. His classical inclination became apparent with The Syracusan Bride, which created a sensation at the Royal Academy in 1866; by 1869 he was a fixture at that institution, poised to become president in 1878.
Leighton produced only a few works in sculpture but they were enormously influential, and Athlete Wrestling with a Python was so popular when exhibited in 1877 that it was purchased for the nation by the trustees of the Chantrey bequest. Toward the end of his life his style grew darker, owing to the influence of Michelangelo. In 1894, when his health began to falter, Leighton resigned his presidency. He was raised to the peerage in 1896, the first artist ever to be honored in that way. The next day, Leighton died at his home, Leighton House, in Kensington. His last recorded words were, “My love to the Academy.” He was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Mrs. A. Lang, Sir F. Leighton, President of the Royal Academy, His Life and Work. Art Annual (London: J. S. Virtue, 1884), https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/010250900
Ernest Rys, Frederic lord Leighton: late president of the Royal academy of arts; an illustrated record of his life and work (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1895), https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009834277
Mrs. Russell Barrington,The Life, Letters and Work of Frederic Leighton, 2 vols., (London: George Allen, 1906), https://archive.org/details/lifelettersandw00unkngoog
A. Lys Baldry, Leighton (London: T.C. and E. C. Jack, 1908), https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000372895