In the course of relating Leighton’s friendship with and mentorship of both Henrietta Rae and her husband in his book about Rae, Fish explains their memory of the way Leighton developed his paintings. — George P. Landow

Decorated initial L

eighton had a method peculiarly his own for the design and construction of his pictures, a method that was the outcome of his experience and extraordinary knowledge and skill. A design once thought out was never departed from in its essentials. Once recorded — even but in chalk on brown paper, which was the favourite method — it was carefully followed up step by step to completion. So far as the design was concerned the picture had birth with the idea. With this design fixed on paper the details were then entered upon. Studies in chalk on brown paper were made of each separate part. The model posed, drawings were first made from the nude figure, and then the drapery added and drawn from.

“There is my next picture,” he said on one occasion, pointing to a drawerful of these brown paper sketches. Not until each detail had been worked out was the canvas prepared and the design placed upon it. Then there was thin painting in burnt sienna and white, so thin that the ground of the canvas was never lost, and then on to the full colour scheme, working from the detailed drawings to the finish.

To Leighton this was all very simple; the system suited his style completely, and he believed in it thoroughly and confidently. For himself and his own requirements there is no doubt that it was efficacious ; he could always secure his own particular end by its means. But curiously enough he had the idea that the system could be adapted to any require- ments and would suit any style and tempera- ment. [40-41]


Fish, Arthur. Henrietta Rae (Mrs. Ernest Normand) . London: Cassell and Company, 1905.

Last modified 4 July 2020