Frederic Leighton’s “Flaming June” — a sun-drenched, sleeping female wrapped in orange draperies — is one of the most memorable and reproduced images in the history of British art. The work’s fascinating story, from its creation to international fame, is detailed during this exhibition.

Although the subject is imaged deep within a serene sleep, set against the calm waters of a Mediterranean seascape, Frederic Leighton’s “Flaming June” has made energetic waves since its production in 1895. One of the preeminent artists of the 19th century in Britain, Frederic Leighton was a key member of the Royal Academy and even earned the title of president from 1878 to 1896.

Although Leighton would create a number of stunning works — both in oil and in bronze — “Flaming June” is perhaps his masterpiece and most iconic. The story of this magnificent work is the subject of an exhibition currently on view at the Leighton House Museum. Significantly, this will be a rare moment when the painting returns to its home from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, where it has been since 1963.

Frederic Leighton, “Flaming June,” 1895, oil on canvas, 47 x 47 in. (c) Museo de Arte de Ponce 2016
Frederic Leighton, “Flaming June,” 1895, oil on canvas, 47 x 47 in. (c) Museo de Arte de Ponce 2016

Following the work’s critical reception at the Royal Academy, its disappearance in the 20th century, and its path to Puerto Rico, the exhibition also juxtaposes “Flaming June” with other pictures produced for Academy in 1895. Among the other stunning works on view are “The Maid with Golden Hair,” “Twixt Hope and Fear,” and “Candida.” Via the museum, “The re-gathering of these pictures places ‘Flaming June’ back into the context of its original exhibition, providing a compelling starting-point for exploring its history. Leighton was already unwell with the heart condition that would kill him at the time he made this last Academy submission. The assembled pictures represent his last statement as an artist and allow a reappraisal of his achievements, relating these five works back to the career that led up to their production and understanding the legacy of a creative life that was close to its end.”

“Flaming June: The Making of an Icon” will be on view through April 2. To learn more, visit the Leighton House Museum.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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