Frederic Leighton PRA

On the other side of the General Assembly Room is Frederic Leighton, painted by his friend and neighbour, G.F. Watts, who he had persuaded to be an RA, but who, unlike Leighton, was always ambivalent about it.   Leighton is confident and leonine, painted in 1888, aged 71, man-of-the-world, who, aged 17, had painted Schopenhauer in Frankfurt, then lived in Brussels and Paris, where he was a friend of Delacroix and Ingres, and Rome.   It took him a while to be elected as an RA because, whilst admired, he was also mistrusted as too European, too intellectual, too interested in the purely aesthetic.   But once elected, he was deeply involved in the affairs of the Academy, on the hanging committee in 1869, organising the first Winter Exhibition in 1870, and elected President as successor to Sir Francis Grant in November 1878.   His last recorded words were ‘My love to the Academy’.   He never married:-


2 thoughts on “Frederic Leighton PRA

  1. Leighton was a fine painter and, in my view, the best 19th century PRA. Indeed , alongside Reynolds himself, among the very best Presidents. Alone among PRAs , he had the intellect and the imagination to provide the Leadership required of the RA.

    He collected an impressive array of artists – Renaissance (Titian, Georgione, Bassano) – as well as Constable’s sketch for The Haywain, landscapes and architectural drawings. Together with his friend George Aitchison he designed the remarkable, Arab inspired, Leighton House.

  2. Maurice Davies says:

    When I was hanging the portrait of Leighton last week one of the RA’s art handlers told me it had been described as looking like Stilton cheese. The comment appears to be from George Moore’s Modern Painting of 1893 and is about GF Watts’ work in general. It’s very apt. Leighton’s beard has something of the appearance of crumbly cheese, as do several other parts of the painting. Stilton or not, it’s a fabulous picture.

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