Comments on Frederick Lord Leighton (1890)

M. H. Spielmann

Sir Frederick Leighton, though contributing no composition of the importance of "Captive Andromache" again justifies through his work his position as the head of English art. It is not that that work is suave, and graceful, and pleasing, soft in handling, harmonious in colour, and poetic in feeling; but it is that there is revealed in it a sense of style, a sentiment of nobility and dignity, tempered by elegance, by which, almost alone, he sets an example that cannot but exert a great and beneficent influence on his fellow-artists, as well as on the people themselves. Of his pictures there is, indeed, little fresh to be said; his art — I had almost written, his science — contains to-day the elements that have always distinguished it — design, colour, and that mental quality that together make up the sum of every picture. Of the studies for two of his pictures, "Solitude" and "The Bath of Venus" some reproductions are here given which show the process of their evolution. First, the general idea is fixed upon the sheet of brown paper in black-and-white chalk; then the scheme of colour is painted on a tiny panel; next the model is posed and drawn, first nude, then draped, the drapery having been carefully and minutely studied apart. Lastly, the final cartoon is copied accurately on to the canvas in outline, coloured in monochrome, first nude, then draped over, and the painting proceeds with the precision, though hardly the speed, of a fresco. "Solitude," represented by a Naiad, clad in gay but soft-toned draperies, personifies the silence of the swift hrown tarns of Scotland, but it yields in beauty and in luminosity to the "The Bath of Venus," where the lovely goddess, disrobing herself with the acme of grace, reveals a pose of quite extraordinary charm' and colouring of singular brilliancy. "The Tragic Muse" is a composition that recalls more or less "The Sibyl" of last year, while the angry sea, the lurid sky necked with blood, the lowering brow and brooding eyes, as the woman guards the ominous record-scrolls, are all ingenious in their imagery.

References

Spielmann., M. H. "Current Art. Royal Academy, — I." Magazine of Art (1890). London: Cassell and Company. Pp. 217-21.


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Last modified 14 November 2006