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Title: Leighton
Author: Baldry, A. Lys
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Leighton" ***

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  MASTERPIECES
  IN COLOUR

  EDITED BY
  T. LEMAN HARE



LEIGHTON

1830-1897



======================================================================

PLATE I.--"AND THE SEA GAVE UP THE DEAD WHICH WERE IN IT."--Rev. xx.
13. (Frontispiece)

(At the Tate Gallery, London)

This panel was intended to form part of a scheme of decoration for the
Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, and is interesting as an example of
Leighton's methods of design.  Both in subject and mode of treatment it
departs markedly from the customary direction of his paintings, but its
largeness of style and imaginative power give it an important place in
the series of his works.

[Illustration: PLATE I.--"AND THE SEA GAVE UP THE DEAD WHICH WERE IN
IT."]

======================================================================



LEIGHTON


BY A. LYS BALDRY


ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT

REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR



[Illustration: title page art]



LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK

NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO.

1908



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Plate

    I. "And the Sea gave up the Dead which
       were in it." (Rev. XX. 13) . . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece
           At the Tate Gallery

   II. The Syracusan Bride
           In the possession of F. B. Mildmay, Esq., M.P.

  III. Gathering Citrons
           In the possession of F. B. Mildmay, Esq., M.P.

   IV. Clytemnestra
           At Leighton House, Kensington

    V. The Bath of Psyche
           At the Tate Gallery

   VI. A Noble Lady of Venice
           In the possession of Lord Armstrong, Rothbary

  VII. Elijah in the Wilderness
           At the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

 VIII. Portrait of Sir Richard Burton
           At the National Portrait Gallery



[Illustration: Leighton]



It is true that a definite connection can almost always be traced
between the temperament of an artist and the work that he produces.
One of the first things that must be taken into account in any study of
his achievement is the manner of his training during the most
impressionable years of his boyhood.  Youthful associations and
surroundings must obviously have a very real influence upon the
direction in which any man develops in after life, and much of his
later success or failure must depend upon the kind of cultivation that
is given at the outset to his natural tastes and instinctive
preferences.  Everything which helps to define his personality, or to
shape his character, has an actual bearing upon his ultimate efficiency
as a producer, and counts for something in the building up of his
scheme of active existence; the discipline of a judicious up-bringing
puts his temperament under the control of his intelligence, and by
pointing the way in which he can best apply his powers, saves him from
wasting his energies in unprofitable experiment.  He starts his career
with a knowledge of himself, and with confidence in his personal
qualifications for the profession he has chosen; and this confidence
enables him to use his individuality not only to his own advantage, but
for the benefit of other men as well.

It would not be easy to find a better instance of this connection
between the artist's personality and the character of his performance
than is afforded by the life and practice of Lord Leighton, nor one
which marks more definitely the effect produced by early associations
and training.  Indeed, to understand his art at all, it is necessary to
trace from his childhood the sequence of events by which the trend of
his æsthetic convictions was determined, and to follow, step by step,
the evolution of that creed in which he retained, to the end, the
fullest and most absolute faith.  He was no opportunist in art matters,
momentary fashions did not affect him, and he did not yield to the
temptation, which many artists are unable to resist, to make
experiments in unaccustomed directions; what he once believed he
believed always, and neither his catholicity of taste, nor his generous
toleration of methods of practice quite opposed to his own, had any
effect upon the consistency of his effort.  What he conceived to be his
mission he fulfilled to the utmost, and there is no plainer proof of
his strength than the firmness of his adherence to the course which he
had decided at the outset was the one he ought to follow.

======================================================================

PLATE II.--THE SYRACUSAN BRIDE

(The plate represents the centre portion of the picture, now in the
possession of Mr. Mildmay, M.P., at Ivybridge)

A typical example of the artist's earlier manner--characteristically
suave in line arrangement and dignified in effect--this picture shows
well how he could manage the intricacies of an elaborate composition.
The decorative beauty of the whole design and the grace of individual
figures can be sincerely admired.

[Illustration: PLATE II.--THE SYRACUSAN BRIDE]

======================================================================

Leighton does not seem to have owed to heredity any of his particular
gifts as an artist.  His father and grandfather were both medical men,
and, during several generations preceding his birth, no member of his
family appears to have possessed more than an ordinary degree of taste
in art matters.  Yet the desire for the pictorial expression of his
ideas was one of the first of his childish inclinations; and in 1839,
before he was ten years old--he was born at Scarborough on December 3,
1830--this desire had become so strong that his parents began seriously
to consider whether it ought not to be accepted by them as determining
the profession which he was eventually to follow.  Their final decision
on the subject was postponed for some years longer, for they felt the
need for caution lest his powers should prove to be insufficient to
justify them in consenting that he should become a professional artist.
But meanwhile his father, himself a man of culture and a lover of the
classics, determined that the boy should receive a good general
education, and that, though art teaching was not to be denied to him,
it should be one only of the subjects in which he was to be trained.

So for the next four or five years his work was very judiciously
varied.  In 1840 he had gone with his parents to Rome, and during the
two years he remained there he had regular drawing-lessons from Signor
Meli.  Then came a year spent partly at Dresden and partly at Berlin,
which gave him further opportunities for art study, a short stay during
1843 at a school at Frankfort, and another move, in 1844, to Florence.
This wandering life under his father's guidance was of no small
advantage to him, for it not only offered him chances of becoming
acquainted with various types of art, but enabled him to acquire that
command of languages which was of so much service to him in his after
career.  It gave him, too, a wide experience of people and things such
as comes seldom enough to a lad of his age, and had undoubtedly a very
valuable influence upon his mental development.

It was in Florence that the question whether he was or was not to be an
artist was finally decided.  His father sought the advice of Hiram
Powers, the American sculptor, to whom he showed examples of the boy's
work and asked whether he should "make him an artist."  When Powers
declared that Nature had done that already, and, in answer to further
questioning as to young Leighton's chances of success, said that he
would become as eminent as he pleased, the parental doubts and
hesitation came to an end.  Immediate steps were taken to give him a
grounding in the rudiments of the profession which opened up to him
such brilliant prospects.  His general education still went on, but he
was allowed time for special study, and not only entered the Accademia
delle Belle Arti at Florence, but also set to work to study anatomy
under Zanetti at the hospital in that city; and on these lines his
training was continued for some little while.

When he left Florence it was to return to his school at Frankfort,
where he remained till he was nearly seventeen, and then he spent a
year in the Stadtlesches Institut there.  He moved next to Brussels,
where he came in contact with Wiertz and Gallait, and then for a few
months to Paris, to worship at the shrine of Ingres and Ary Scheffer.
But during this period his art work was carried on without the
systematic direction of any master, and though on his travels he had
picked up much useful knowledge, and had acquired sufficient confidence
in himself to attempt two or three pictures of some importance, he felt
at last the need for real discipline.  So at the end of 1849 he left
Paris, and returned to Frankfort to put himself under the rigid rule of
Steinle, a master from whom he knew that he would receive just the
drilling which was necessary to bring his somewhat errant youthful
fancies under proper control.

Steinle was an artist who had little sympathy with those redundancies
of style which were at that time characteristic of the Florentine
school.  He was a believer in severity of manner, in formality and
strict simplicity, and that Leighton should have chosen him as the one
man from whom he desired to receive tuition is proof enough that the
young artist was fully conscious of the deficiencies in his own early
performance.  With this consciousness to spur him on it can well be
imagined that the two years he spent with Steinle were not wasted; he
worked hard, and if he had to unlearn much that he had learned before,
he acquired thereby a sounder judgment of the relative value of
different forms of practice, and added largely to his knowledge of
technical processes.  He had, during his earlier wanderings from place
to place, seen and studied many phases of art, and he had gathered
impressions with what was, perhaps, rather dangerous facility; to bring
this mass of oddly assorted information into proper shape, and to sift
out from it what had real value, was a task in which he needed the
assistance of a disciplinarian with high ideals and firm convictions.
He had full confidence in Steinle's judgment, and though his own
æsthetic creed was even then too clearly defined to be changed in
essentials by the asceticism of his master, he responded readily to the
suggestions of a man who could show him plainly just where the
extravagances of this creed required to be curbed, and how what was
best in it could most fitly be developed.

He left Frankfort in the autumn of 1852 and went to live at Rome; and
soon after he had settled there he commenced the picture which was
destined, on its appearance at the Royal Academy in 1855, to put him
instantly among the most prominent of the artists of his time.  In this
picture--"Cimabue's Madonna carried in Procession through the Streets
of Florence"--he not only summarised all his previous experience, but
forecasted what was to be his artistic direction during the rest of his
life.  Though he had painted other canvases before, and exhibited them
at Frankfort, it was with this one that his career as an artist of
admitted distinction really began.  It introduced him dramatically to
the British public; it was bought by Queen Victoria--a fact which
immediately advertised its importance to art lovers in this
country--and it amply justified the hopes and expectations as to his
future, which had been formed by his many friends abroad and by the
judges who had had opportunities of estimating the value of his student
work.  This was the picture which Thackeray had seen in progress at
Rome, and which, by the impression it made upon him, induced him to
tell Millais that he had come across "a versatile young dog who will
run you hard for the presidentship one day"--a much-quoted prophecy of
which we have had since the complete fulfilment.

======================================================================

PLATE III.--GATHERING CITRONS

(In the possession of Mr. Mildmay, M.P.)

Few of Leighton's paintings of Eastern subjects illustrate better than
this one the certainty and precision of his draughtsmanship and his
power of dealing with architectural details.  But this "Old
Damascus--Jews' Quarter"--as it was called when it was first exhibited
in 1874--is much more than a simple study of architecture; it sums up
many of the artist's best qualities as a craftsman and a shrewd
observer of Nature.

[Illustration: PLATE III.--GATHERING CITRONS]

======================================================================

But in an analysis of Leighton's art this famous composition claims a
place of even greater importance than in the historical summary of his
life's work.  That it has faults in draughtsmanship, and that in
certain details its composition is open to criticism, can be frankly
admitted; these defects, however, are but what might have been expected
in so ambitious an effort by an artist whose years did not number more
than four-and-twenty, and who necessarily lacked that comprehensive
grasp of executive processes which comes only with long experience and
exhaustive practice in the mechanism of painting.  When the
circumstances of its production are taken into account it must always
rank as one of the most triumphant demonstrations of youthful genius
which have ever been recorded.  That its reception at the 1855 Academy
was really enthusiastic can well be understood; it must have come as a
welcome surprise to the people who were growing impatient of the
atmosphere of mediocrity by which at that period nearly the whole of
British art was pervaded.

Now, the significance of such an example of Leighton's early
achievement is made more emphatic by comparison with the long series of
his later works.  At twenty-four the Italian influence was strong upon
him, and the impressions of his boyhood, modified but not effaced by
the teaching of Steinle, had still power to control his artistic
intelligence.  The triviality of Italian art, its love of detail, and
its seeking after superficialities of expression, did not appeal to
him, but in its sumptuousness and sensuous charm he found something
with which he could fully sympathise.  In yielding to this sympathy,
however, he was kept by his fastidious taste and innate love of
refinement from running to extremes.  He worked in the Italian spirit,
but the spirit was that of the older masters rather than that of the
modern men, and even then it underwent a kind of transmutation in his
mind.  For the greater qualities of the picture were not simply the
outcome of his imitation of the mannerisms of the school to which at
that time he belonged by association, rather were they due to his
personal conception of the functions which the imaginative painter was
called upon to fulfil--to an independent belief which was capable of
being asserted in many ways.  This belief, formed in his early manhood,
persisted, indeed, in all its essentials to the end of his days, and
was as surely evidenced in his later classicism as in the first few
examples of his Italian adaptations.

It was founded upon the idea that a work of art to be really great must
be rightly decorative, that whatever the pictorial motive chosen, it
must be treated as the basis of a studied arrangement of form and
colour, and must be brought as near to perfection of design as is
possible by the exercise of all the devices of craftsmanship.  Leighton
undoubtedly saw in decoration the only permissible application of
painting, but he saw also that decoration could be made much more than
a narrow and unreal convention, and that so far from hampering the
artist with high ideals, it offered him the greatest opportunities of
satisfying his aspirations.  He appreciated, too, the fact that the
most exquisite naturalism could be attained in every part of a picture
which was designed purely to express an ideal fancy.  Therefore, he did
not hesitate to select, for many of his most exactly reasoned
compositions, subjects which had either an historical allusion, or
which illustrated some myth or legend.  He was so sure of the principle
of his art that he did not fear that in telling the story, and in
embroidering it with a wealth of minutely perfected detail, he would
lose the vitality or the purity of his decoration.

To this confidence was due emphatically both the power and the charm of
the Cimabue picture.  The subject, in itself merely episodical, was one
capable of just that refinement of design, and balance of colour, which
the decorator who is adequately conscious of his responsibility regards
as indispensable; and Leighton, spurred to emulation by the noble
examples of decorative painting with which he had been familiar from
his childhood, and endowed with a just appreciation of his own great
gifts, had no hesitation in attempting to turn this incident from art
history into a painting which would be an avowal of all the articles of
his æsthetic creed, and a profession of the faith to which he had sworn
allegiance.  It is characteristic of his courage that he should have
chosen to make in this manner his first appearance in an English
exhibition; a man of less independence would probably have hesitated to
stake so much upon a piece of work which, by the very frankness of its
revelation of the artist's intention to go his own way, was quite as
likely to excite opposition as to be received with approval.  But it
was no part of his scheme of existence to tout for popularity by coming
down to a lower level, and he valued consistency more than the
adulation of the public.

Indeed, by his very next picture, "The Triumph of Music," which was
exhibited in 1856, he brought himself into conflict with the critics
and students of what was accepted as correct art.  "The Triumph of
Music" represented Orpheus playing a violin to Pluto and Proserpine,
and the combination of figures from a classic story with an instrument
invented only in the Middle Ages was resented by every one who did not
understand, or did not sympathise with the artist's decorative and
symbolical intention.  But in this instance also he was following the
lead of the great Italian masters, who had provided him with many
precedents for such a pictorial combination; and it is quite probable
that he knew beforehand what would be the effect upon a modern public
of his attempt to give new life to an ancient tradition.  At least, he
proved that he was quite ready to go to all necessary lengths in his
advocacy of freedom of practice, and showed that he was not likely to
enrol himself among the conventionalists and the followers of the
mid-Victorian fashion.

======================================================================

PLATE IV.--CLYTEMNESTRA

(At Leighton House, Kensington)

The strength and statuesque dignity of this figure are not less
remarkable than the power with which the subject as a whole is
suggested.  The picture has a wonderful degree of dramatic effect, and
is especially impressive in its reticence and scholarly restraint.  The
admirable drawing of the draperies should be particularly noted.

[Illustration: PLATE IV.--CLYTEMNESTRA]

======================================================================

This picture was painted in Paris, whither he had gone in the autumn of
1855.  He made that city his headquarters for some two years during
which he worked assiduously, and found many friends among the leaders
of French art.  In 1858 he stayed for a time in London, and by coming
in contact with some of the younger painters, who were then
contributing an important chapter to our art history--with men like
Millais, Rossetti, and Holman Hunt--he obtained a closer insight into
certain artistic movements of which, while abroad, he had probably
heard but the faintest echoes.  By this time the Pre-Raphaelite
rebellion had produced its effect and was not in need of his support,
but it may fairly be assumed that, if the need had arisen, he would
have been on the side of those who were fighting for the emancipation
of British art.

In the following year he was again in Italy, and during the spring he
worked in Capri; it was there that he executed that marvellous drawing
of the "Lemon Tree," which has always, and with justice, been counted
among his masterpieces; but in 1860 he decided to settle in London, and
established himself in Orme Square, Bayswater.  Life in London did not,
however, mean that his excursions to other countries were to be
abandoned, he continued regularly to spend some months in each year in
travel abroad, and he visited in succession Spain, Damascus, Egypt, and
other parts of the East, besides renewing his acquaintance with many
places which he had seen before.  These wanderings were always
productive; they added much to his stock of material, and the results
of them are embodied in a number of his pictures, as well as in that
long series of open air sketches which show how sensitive he was to the
beauty of nature, and how delicately he could interpret her moods.

======================================================================

PLATE V.--THE BATH OF PSYCHE

(At the Tate Gallery, London)

One of the most fascinating of Leighton's classic compositions.  It was
painted six years before his death, and represents perfectly the art of
his later period, when his powers had fully matured and he had acquired
complete control over refinements of practice.  Exhibited in the Royal
Academy in 1890.  Purchased by the Chantrey Trustees in 1890.

[Illustration: PLATE V.--THE BATH OF PSYCHE]

======================================================================

Four years after Leighton became a British artist, by residence as well
as by birth, he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy.  In this
same year, 1864, he exhibited a picture, "Golden Hours," which is
notable as one of the most successful examples of his Italian manner.
But though the memories of his youth were still powerful, and had, even
at that date, an influence upon his art, there was a definite change
coming over his practice.  Whether this change was due to closer
contact with the traditions of English painting, or simply to the
inevitable maturing of his convictions as he drew near to middle age,
it is hard to say; but certainly as years went on he inclined more and
more away from the sumptuousness of Italy, towards the purer and less
emotional dignity of Greece.  He sought more persistently for the
classic atmosphere, his idealism became more severe, and his decoration
more reticent, and he turned more frequently for his subjects to the
Greek myths.  As an illustration of his new view, it is interesting to
compare his "Syracusan Bride leading Wild Animals for Sacrifice to the
Temple of Diana," exhibited in 1866, with the "Cimabue's Madonna," by
which his reputation had been established eleven years before.  Both
are processional compositions of large size, both have the same sort of
decorative intention; but while there is in the first some kind of
story, and some attempt to realise the atmosphere of a particular
period of history, in the second there is little more than a purely
fanciful pattern of forms and colours, which is interesting solely on
account of its beauty.  A similar comparison might be made between the
"Dante going forth into Exile," which belongs to the same year as the
"Golden Hours," and the "Venus Disrobing for the Bath" of 1867, or the
"Helios and Rhodes," "Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon," and "Dædalus
and Icarus," of 1869.  In this latter year he exhibited also his
diploma picture, "St. Jerome in the Desert"--as he had been elected a
Royal Academician in 1868--but this, a study of strong action, and
vehemently dramatic in effect, is neither Italian nor classic, and
belongs really to a class of art into which he only occasionally
digressed.  As time went on the statuesque repose of his canvases
increased, and the classic severity became perceptible even when he
treated subjects which had no Grecian allusion.  It is quite apparent
in his large picture of "Hercules Wrestling with Death for the Body of
Alcestis" (1871), though in this there is no lack of vigorous movement;
it gave a particular charm to his conception of the exquisite "Summer
Moon" (1872), perhaps the most perfect work he ever produced; and it is
felt most of all in the vast composition, "The Daphnephoria," which,
exhibited in 1876, rounds off significantly that important decade in
his career which opened with the "Syracusan Bride."

Henceforth Leighton must be counted among the many artists of
distinction who have, in this country, striven assiduously to keep
alive the Greek tradition.  He never sank into a mere pictorial
archæologist, and rarely tried to produce those cold and lifeless
reconstructions of ancient life which are too often put forth by
painters who depend for their inspiration upon book-learning and museum
study rather than imagination.  But the beauty of Greek art, its
strength and delicacy, its dignity and ideal grace, absorbed him as
they did Fred Walker and Albert Moore, and, like these two British
masters, he allowed its influence to determine the way in which the
whole of his painting was treated.  Even in such pictures as "The
Slinger," an Egyptian subject, or "Gathering Citrons; a Court in
Damascus," which was one of the results of his Eastern travel, both of
which belong to this period, he made no pretence of avoiding, for the
sake of what may be called local exactness, the antique preconception;
both are as evidently statuesque in design, and classic in manner, as
any of his Grecian fantasies; and, to take another instance, it is
instructive to note how, in his "Noble Lady of Venice," a subject which
seemingly demanded a purely Italian quality, the sumptuousness of
effect has been refined and purified by a kind of simplicity of
statement borrowed obviously from antique art.

It is curious, however, that in the first important piece of sculpture
for which he was responsible, the "Athlete Struggling with a Python,"
which was at the Academy in 1877, he should have avoided almost
entirely any hint of Greek spirit.  This statue is essentially Italian,
both in its general design and in its details of modelling.  It has
none of the firmness of line, and little of the largeness of method,
which are so decisively characteristic of antique sculpture, and owes
plainly more to Donatello than to Phidias.  Yet it has great and
distinguished merits, and can be placed in the company of the few great
things which have been produced in this branch of art during modern
times.  As an anatomical study it is most convincing, for it reveals an
astonishingly complete knowledge of the construction of the human form,
and is exceedingly true in its realisation of muscular action.  Perhaps
the chief objection that can be urged against it as a work of art is
that it records an impossibility--a snake of the size represented would
be more than a match for a man even with the fine physique of the
athlete, and the ending of such a struggle, the difficulty of which the
statue hardly suggests, would be prompt and disastrous.  But Leighton's
fine craftsmanship has made even an impossibility seem credible, and
his work must not be condemned because it involves an error in natural
history.

He exhibited another large statue, "The Sluggard," in 1886, which, like
the "Athlete Struggling with a Python," has found a permanent home in
the Tate Gallery.  It is again a study of action which, if less violent
than that of the earlier figure, is still vigorous enough to show how
well the artist understood anatomy; and it is again Italian rather than
Greek.  It is also open to criticism because there is an apparent
contradiction between the suggestion of the title and the physical
character of the "Sluggard."  This well knit, muscular youth,
stretching himself in an attitude of graceful freedom, could have lived
no slothful life.  Activity and the capacity for strong exertion are
evident in every line, and his condition is too good to have been
obtained without exercises which the sleepy, sluggish man would not
have cared to perform.  The title, indeed, is unfortunate because it
implies an intention on the artist's part to illustrate a particular
motive which he has failed to express, though what he has actually
given us is artistically admirable and full of noble beauty.

In the interval between 1876 and 1886 Leighton's pictorial production
continued without intermission, and without any abatement in the
loftiness of his aim.  "The Music Lesson" (1877), "Winding the Skein"
(1878), and "Nausicaa," in the same year, "Psamathe" (1880), "The
Idyll" (1881), and "Cymon and Iphigenia" (1884), are all typical
examples of his mature performance, and with them must be included
"Cleoboulos Instructing his Daughter Cleobouline," which though an
earlier picture--it was exhibited in 1871--is in style and character
closely allied to the "Music Lesson."  Nor must his "Phryne at Eleusis"
(1882) be overlooked, though this is scarcely one of his happiest
achievements, and is a little too pedantic in style.  It claims
consideration chiefly for its richness of colour and fine drawing of
the nude female figure.

======================================================================

PLATE VI.--A NOBLE LADY OF VENICE

(At Lord Armstrong's seat, Rothbury Castle, Northumberland)

As a technical exercise, searching, precise, and careful, and yet
distinguished by a sumptuous breadth of effect, this memorable study of
a fine type of feminine beauty takes high rank among the artist's
smaller paintings.  It bears most plainly the stamp of his correct and
cultivated taste.

[Illustration: PLATE VI.--A NOBLE LADY OF VENICE]

======================================================================

Into this decade fall two of the greater events of his life, his
election as President of the Royal Academy, and the execution of his
famous wall paintings, "The Arts of War," and "The Arts of Peace," in
the South Kensington Museum.  On the death of Sir Francis Grant, who
had held the Presidential office since 1866, Leighton was chosen, on
November 13, 1878, to fill the vacant post.  In making this selection,
the members of the Academy did honour to a man who had raised himself,
by sheer strength of personality, to a position of acknowledged
leadership in the art affairs of this country, but they also secured as
their President an artist who was almost ideally fitted to deal with
the many responsibilities which have necessarily to be incurred by the
head of such an institution.  Leighton's commanding and yet attractive
presence, his great power of organisation and grasp of details, his
wide knowledge of the world, and his unusual capacity as a linguist,
gave him not only a high degree of authority as an official, but also
ensured to him the sincere confidence of those associated with him.  To
every one outside the Academy he was the personification of all that
was best in academic art; and by his breadth of mind, his wise
toleration of all types of earnest effort, and his ready sympathy with
the struggling worker to whom merit had not brought success, he gained
the respect and even affection of the great mass of the profession.  No
President since Reynolds has been so worthy to direct the policy of the
Academy, and it may fairly be said that none, Reynolds not excepted,
has ruled over it with more discretion, or with better appreciation of
the possibilities of the position.

The other event, the carrying out of the South Kensington wall
paintings, is specially notable because in these works Sir Frederic
Leighton--he received the honour of knighthood on his election as
President--was able to put to legitimate uses all his capacities as a
decorator, and to prove that in paintings on the largest scale he was
as much a master of his craft as in the easel pictures to which, for
want of greater opportunities, he was obliged to confine himself.  He
had made a previous experiment in this direction in 1866, when he
executed the fresco of "The Wise and Foolish Virgins" in the church at
Lyndhurst, an admirable composition treated with rare intelligence and
distinctive originality; but the South Kensington lunettes were more
exacting undertakings, and calculated to test his powers to the utmost.
"The Arts of War" was begun towards the end of the 'seventies and took
several months to finish, the companion lunette was painted two or
three years later; and both of them, though some of the preliminary
work was done by assistants, are substantially from his hand.

In many respects "The Arts of War" is the more satisfying performance.
A scene from mediæval Italian life, it is handled with something of his
earlier manner, but with an amount of breadth and freshness which he
scarcely approached in his younger days.  It has infinite grace without
a hint of weakness, firmness without formality, and style without
conventionality; and it is, above all, a true decoration erring neither
in the direction of excessive pictorial effect, nor in that of dull
unreality.  "The Arts of Peace" is less masculine and more studied, and
is neither so ingenious in design, nor so happy in its grouping; though
in parts it shows quite his finest art, and there are in it individual
figures which are delightful examples of his masterly skill as a
draughtsman.  It suffers, perhaps, most of all from the want of freedom
of brush-work, and from the substitution of an over-careful precision
of touch for the looser and larger handling which is one of the sources
of the charm of "The Arts of War."  Two other decorative achievements
must be added to the record of Sir Frederic's effort in this direction,
the ceiling for the music-room of Mr. Marquand's house in New York,
painted in 1886, and the admirable panel, "Phoenicians Bartering with
Britons," executed nine years later for the Royal Exchange.

It is greatly a matter for regret that it should be possible to include
in such a meagre list practically the whole of the artist's work as a
serious decoration.  It is true that he was concerned in one of the
many schemes which have been devised for the decoration of St. Paul's
Cathedral, but this scheme was never advanced beyond the preliminary
stage, and his part in it is represented only by the cartoon symbolical
of the Resurrection--"And the Sea gave up the Dead which were in
it"--which now hangs in the Tate Gallery.  The chances which he desired
were denied to him, as they were to G. F. Watts, and to other painters
of like ambitions, and the world has in consequence lost much which
would have been of supreme interest.  That he, with his often renewed
memories of the frescoes of the Italian masters, must have felt
resentment at the British indifference to this noble form of art can
well be imagined.  He knew that, with his aspirations, and his power,
triumphs as great as any of the old painters achieved were well within
his reach, but with all his earnest advocacy, even he was unable to
induce the stolid patron of art to believe that an artist should be
encouraged to produce anything but canvases of a convenient size, which
would serve for the furnishing of modern houses.

So it comes to this, that his only commission for mural decoration on a
large scale was for the two lunettes at South Kensington; the Lyndhurst
fresco was a gift he made to the church, as a thank-offering, it is
said, for his recovery from an illness, and the Marquand ceiling, the
Resurrection cartoon, and the Royal Exchange panel were only paintings
on canvas.  It is a poor record, indeed, and one of which the people in
this country have every reason to feel ashamed.  But the thwarting of
his ambitions in one direction did not make him in others a less
conscientious artist.  "The Arts of Peace" was finished during 1885,
and for another ten years he went on painting pictures into which he
put all his love of ideal beauty, and all his striving for greater
perfection of technical expression.  There is certainly no diminution
of power to be perceived in any of these later works, though for some
while before his death he suffered increasingly from the heart trouble
to which at last he succumbed on January 25, 1896.

======================================================================

PLATE VII.--ELIJAH IN THE WILDERNESS

(At the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)

Though this canvas is scarcely typical of Leighton's usual achievement,
it has a particular value as an illustration of his adaptability as a
painter.  The contrast between the figure of the Prophet and that of
the Angel, between the rugged vigour of the man and the grace of the
celestial being, is curiously effective.

[Illustration: PLATE VII.--ELIJAH IN THE WILDERNESS]

======================================================================

Indeed, it was during this last ten years that some of the most
memorable additions were made to the list of his successes.  "The Last
Watch of Hero" (1887), as charming in sentiment as in execution; the
large composition, "Captive Andromache" (1888); "The Bath of Psyche"
(1890), a delicate piece of fancy in his happiest manner; "Perseus and
Andromeda" and "The Return of Persephone," in 1891; "The Garden of the
Hesperides" (1892); "Hit" (1893); "Summer Slumber" (1894); "'Twixt Hope
and Fear," and that wonderful study of glowing colour, "Flaming June,"
in 1895; and the "Clytie," which was at Burlington House after his
death, are worthy of praise as generous and unhesitating as can be
given to anything he showed before.  "The Bath of Psyche" and the
"Clytie" are, in fact, pictures which have few rivals among his other
works, the first because of its inimitable purity of feeling and
classic refinement, the other because of its convincing force and
dramatic passion.  In this last effort of a dying man it is easy to
find a kind of symbolical meaning: there is a pathetic significance in
the attitude of the nymph who loved the light, as she kneels with arms
outstretched towards the setting sun.  Such a conception, and such a
treatment of the subject, typify so exactly the sadness of an artist
who was working actually under the shadow of death, and with full
consciousness that his days were nearly numbered, that it is difficult
not to look upon the "Clytie" as Leighton's farewell to the world in
which he had found so much beauty and so much brightness.  The sun was
setting for him, and though he was too brave a man to despair or rail
at fate, his yearning for a little longer spell of sunshine was not to
be repressed.

His death, which released him from sufferings that had towards the end
become scarcely endurable, was the more pathetic because an honour had
just been bestowed upon him which showed in a most significant fashion
how highly his claims to special recognition were approved.  In 1886 he
had been created a baronet, and a bare month before he died he was
advanced by Queen Victoria to be a peer of the United Kingdom, with the
title of Baron Leighton of Stretton.  It is sad, indeed, that he should
not have lived to enjoy a distinction which he had so amply earned, and
to use his splendid mental gifts in the wider sphere of activity which
was opened up to him by accession to the peerage.  There was so much he
might have done, so much he would have wished to do, to help on those
artistic movements which were always first in his thoughts, that to
have lost him then, just as greater opportunities of usefulness were
promised than had ever before been offered to him, was an irreparable
disaster for British art.  As he died his last words were, "Give my
love to the Academy," that institution with which he had been
associated for more than thirty years, and in the service of which
nearly half his life had been spent.

To most people it would seem incredible that such a career could be
spoken of as anything but a success, or that an artist so respected and
so honoured should not be counted among the very few to whom fate has
been consistently kind.  And yet to say that Leighton died a
disappointed man would not be untrue.  He had been a great figure
socially, he had played his part in public as an official with
brilliancy and distinction, he had enjoyed the friendship of the
greatest of his contemporaries, but no one knew better than he did that
the popular homage was offered to his personality rather than to his
art.  He was conscious that he had failed to convey to the people among
whom he lived that æsthetic message which was to him so vital and so
urgent, and that the purpose and principle for which he always laboured
remained to the end unintelligible to the world.  He felt that the
public attitude towards him was exactly summed up in that cynical
saying with which Whistler has been credited: "Oh yes, a marvellous
man!  He is a great speaker, a master of many languages, a fine
musician, a leader of society; and they tell me he paints too."  That
which was to him the one thing worth living for seemed to every one
else the last and least of his accomplishments!  It is small wonder
that he can be spoken of as disappointed; he had given so much for art,
and in return he was recognised as nothing more than an amazingly
clever man of the world, who painted pictures in his spare moments.

Yet it can be freely admitted that his work was not of the kind which
was likely to appeal as a matter of course to ordinary men.  It was, as
has been already said, the outcome of his own temperament, and had from
the first a specific character which was too personal to be wholly
intelligible to people accustomed to look only at the surface of
things.  It must be remembered that he had naturally a very remarkable
mind, and that he received an education which was quite unlike that
usually given to men who adopt the artist's profession.  He had a sound
basis of book-knowledge, and was taught especially to study and
understand the classics, but to this was added, by his prolonged
residence abroad, an intimate insight into many things which never come
within the view of the majority of men, or at best are only dealt with
in later life when the receptivity of youth has become dulled.  He was
encouraged partly by his father's precepts, partly by circumstances, to
analyse and investigate, to compare this and that phase of thought and
form of expression, to seek for the reasons why there should be such
marked differences between the methods of workers who all professed to
be advocating the same principles.  Superficial information could not,
and did not, satisfy him; he had to get down to the foundation and to
find out the causes for the results which were presented to him.

But of course when he came to build a system of art practice upon his
early experiences, and to shape it by the aid of his analytical habit,
he evolved something which most men could scarcely appraise at its full
value.  Therefore, his artistic purpose was persistently misunderstood
and, it may be added, habitually misrepresented.  His art was over the
heads of his contemporaries because their tastes and sympathies had
never been cultivated to his level, because their grosser preferences
failed to find satisfaction in the purity of his idealism.  He was
absorbed always in the pursuit of beauty, which he had sought and found
in many lands, and it was his earnest desire to give to his
representations of this beauty a kind of unhuman perfection,
passionless, perhaps, and cold, but exquisite always in its studied
refinement.  No hint of coarseness or sensuality ever crept into his
pictures; it would be a strangely constituted mind indeed that could
find in his work any suggestiveness, or anything to gratify the baser
instincts of humanity.  He kept aloof from the common things of
existence, and lived in a self-created paradise to which the rest of
mankind could hardly hope to gain admission.

======================================================================

PLATE VIII.--PORTRAIT OF SIR RICHARD BURTON

(At the National Portrait Gallery, London)

It would be no exaggeration to describe this painting of the famous
explorer as one of the more notable of modern portraits, so strong is
it in characterisation and so masterly in manner.  The artist was
fortunate in having a sitter with such a striking personality, and the
sitter in being painted by a man of Leighton's deep insight and great
executive power.

[Illustration: PLATE VIII.--PORTRAIT OF SIR RICHARD BURTON]

======================================================================

His choice of subjects, too, was made with little consideration for the
prejudices or the wishes of the public.  It was nothing to him that by
a course of graceful sentimentality and pretty incident he could bring
himself into a secure haven of popularity.  All he cared for was that
he should have scope to exercise his powers of invention, and to
develop those subtleties of decoration which were, as he held, of such
engrossing interest.  Whether he decided upon heroic motives like the
"Hercules Wrestling with Death" or "Perseus and Andromeda," upon dainty
fancies like "Cleoboulos Instructing his Daughter Cleobouline," "Greek
Girls Playing at Ball," or "Winding the Skein," or upon simple studies
of beautiful reality like the "Noble Lady of Venice," "Kittens," or the
"Idyll," to quote almost at random from the long series of his
paintings which come into this last class, he never allowed himself to
forget that the result was to be as nearly in accordance with his
ideals as it could be made; and whether or not this result would be
what the public expected was the last thing about which he concerned
himself.  But it was natural after all that he should feel some measure
of disappointment at the discovery that there were so few minds capable
of apprehending the supreme significance of the truths which he sought
to teach.

As an executant--an exponent of the craft of painting--he had certain
peculiarities.  His technique was precise, careful, and rather
laborious, without any happy audacities of brushwork, and without any
display of cleverness for its own sake.  It bore some resemblance,
perhaps, to that of painters like Prud'hon or Ary Scheffer, but it had
more vitality, and on the whole more power.  Leighton, like G. F.
Watts, did not attach much importance to that ready directness of
handling which is so greatly advocated by men of the modern school; the
finish and elaboration of surface which he desired were not to be
obtained by treating his picture as if it were to be no more than a
brilliant sketch.  He aimed at exhaustive accuracy of drawing, exact
correctness of modelling, the perfecting of every detail, and the equal
completion of all the parts of his canvas; and this manner of working
led necessarily to sacrifice of spontaneity of touch.  But, on the
other hand, it did not result in fumbling, or in that tentative kind of
method which can be noted in the performances of artists who are
uncertain of their power to solve the more serious executive problems.
He had a regular system by which his pictures were built up stage by
stage, and he knew perfectly well how far each stage could carry him
towards the end he had in view, and how much it would contribute to the
pictorial scheme he had devised.  His method was his own, and, being
his own, he used to say that it was the only one which it was right for
him to use, though for a man with other purposes in art, and another
kind of temperament, it would probably be entirely wrong.

This mode of practice, however, served Leighton well in nearly
everything he undertook.  It enabled him to give charm and delicacy to
his figure subjects, and wonderful virility and strength to his
portraits, and in the painting of the landscapes which he so often used
as backgrounds to his figure compositions, it helped him to attain an
admirable serenity and breadth of effect.  Where it led him astray was
in his treatment of drapery, which under his deliberate method was apt
to become lifeless through its very excess of realism.  The masses of
his draperies he designed with dignity, with a fine sense of line, and
with a proper feeling for the forms of the figure beneath, but these
masses he often cut up by a multiplicity of little folds, all so
precisely drawn and carefully accounted for that they conveyed to the
eye a map-like impression of lines without meaning, and surfaces
without modelling.  He seemed to have worried over them until he had
lost by needless intricacy all largeness of suggestion.  But in his
portraits he maintained with rare discretion the right proportion
between large character, and the little things by which the
individuality of a face is determined.  His heads of "Sir Richard
Burton" and "Professor Costa," for instance, are magnificent and give
him undoubtedly a place among the masters of portraiture.

If an attempt were made to explain in a few words Leighton's position
in art, it would probably be most correct to say that he was, by
instinct and habit of mind, more a sculptor than a painter.  He looked
at nature with a sculptor's eye, and he adopted a kind of technical
process which in its progressive building up was closely akin to
modelling.  And if pictures like his "Phryne," his "Clytemnestra," his
"Electra," and even his wholly charming "Bath of Psyche," are
considered from this point of view, their resemblance to beautifully
tinted sculpture is apparent enough.  Even his "Cimabue's Madonna" and
the "Daphnephoria" suggest bas-reliefs.  That he had the sculptor's
habit of mind is proved by many of his studies in which he drew a
figure, or group of figures, from three or four points of view, so as
to arrive at what may be called the anatomy of the pose.

But discussions as to his right to be described as a sculptor who chose
to give himself up to painting, or as a painter who had all the
qualifications to become a master of sculpture, are a little futile.
He was a great artist and he proved his powers in both forms of
practice.  What is more material is that people should learn to do
justice to his greatness, and should try to estimate at its proper
worth everything that he did.  To scoff at his art, as the unthinking
are ready to do, is utter folly; to say that he has no place in art
history, as a certain school of critics are in the habit of asserting,
is merely stupid prejudice; he will in years to come, when the memories
of his wonderful personality have died away, be accepted on his work
alone as one of the noblest teachers of the fundamental principles of
the best and purest type of æstheticism.  His time has not yet arrived;
had he lived three or four centuries ago he would be honoured now as a
master.  Because he was a man of the nineteenth century our familiarity
with him has bred, if not actually contempt, at least a habit of
undervaluing him which is almost as unreasonable.



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