River Landscape [The River Tiber, near Acquacetosa] . c.1869. Oil on canvas, 9 x 165/8 inches (22.9 x 42.3 cm). Collection of National Trust, Anglesey Abbey, accession no. 515559. Click on image to enlarge it

Leighton was a prolific sketcher during his travels and made nearly 200 landscape oil-sketches during his career. These were executed not just during his exotic travels to Italy, Spain, Greece, North Africa and Egypt, but also his travels in Britain, such as to Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland. These small paintings were not intended for sale and Leighton regarded them merely as painterly exercises that he considered private in nature. At times they would be used as studies for the backgrounds in his major pictures, but more often they were simply memoranda of his trips done for his personal pleasure. Leighton differed from his close friends Costa and Mason in that landscape was a subsidiary interest rather than his principle focus. Despite this his landscape sketches are of exceptional beauty. John A. Gere has praised these sketches “not only by his extreme technical skill, but also by a very precise sense of tonal relationships and a capacity for conveying exactly the appearance of the visible world, while the best of them show something of Corot’s power of instinctive selection, which imposed an architectonic structure on the composition. Gere even claims ”that he was a landscape artist manqué, diverted from his true bent by the official view of the role of the artist in society. But if he had devoted himself to landscape, it is unlikely that he could, any more than Corot, have resisted the pressures that would have obliged him to hold his own at the Academy by painting on too large a scale; and, again like Corot, his sketches would have remained the true expression of his genius.”

This particular river landscape was painted at twilight, probably near Acquacetosa in Italy because the scene portrayed closely resembles that shown in J. C. Moore’s watercolour On the River Tiber, near Acquacetosa. The mountain in the far background to the left is Mount Soracte. This painting contains all the features one associates with the most characteristic sketches of the Etruscan School of painting – small size, a distinctly horizontal format, atmospheric tonality versus strong colour, and mountains hazily seen in the distance

Links to Related Material


Gere, John A. “Leighton and the Etruscans.” Introduction to The Etruscan School. London: The Fine Art Society, 1976.

Created 18 December 2022