Leighton, Frederic


Leighton, Frederic


Leighton, Frederic, 1st Baron Leighton of Stretton (1830-1896), English painter


Omeka record contributed by Linda Merrill

Date Submitted

October 4, 2016

Birth Date

December 3, 1830


Scarborough, England

Death Date

January 25, 1896



Biographical summary

Leighton's family moved to London from Scarborough when he was still a toddler, and although he was enrolled at University College School from the age of eight, his attendance was only intermittent because of his family's frequent travel abroad. Leighton's first drawing lessons took place in Rome; in 1845 he became a student at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence and the next year at the Stãdelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt, where his family had settled. After a brief spell in Paris, Leighton returned to Frankfurt to study with Edward von Steinle, under whose influence he painted his first important works, including Cimabue’s Madonna (Royal Collection), which established his reputation when it was shown at the Royal Academy and purchased by Queen Victoria in 1855.
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

Christopher Newall, “Leighton, Frederic, Baron Leighton (1830-1896),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, May 2006, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16399).




Leighton, Frederic

Cite As

“Leighton, Frederic,” Victorian Artists at Home, accessed December 1, 2023, https://artistsathome.emorydomains.org/items/show/5.

Item Relations

This Item dcterms:subject Item: SIR F. LEIGHTON, P.R.A.
This Item dcterms:subject Item: Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton
This Item dcterms:relation Item: SIR FREDERIC LEIGHTON, P.R.A., D.C.L., L.L.D.
Item: Leighton House dcterms:relation This Item