Flaming June: The Making of an Iconby Matthew Innis |
Flaming June: The Making of an Icon (4 November 2016 – 2 April 2017) is a landmark exhibition for Leighton House Museum, returning Leighton’s most famous and celebrated work to the artist’s house from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico. Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896), was one of the pre-eminent artists of his day. President of the Royal Academy from 1878 to 1896, he achieved great fame and influence as a figurehead for art in late Victorian society; a period when art enjoyed unprecedented public interest and appreciation.
Depicting a sensual, sun-drenched, sleeping female figure wrapped in orange draperies against a Mediterranean backdrop, the exhibition explores the extraordinary story of this picture, from its creation in Leighton’s studio, its first critical reception at the Royal Academy, through its ‘disappearance’ in the middle of the twentieth century, its acquisition by Luis A. Ferré, Governor of Puerto Rico for the Museo de Arte de Ponce in 1963 and subsequent rise to international fame as one of the most memorable and reproduced images in the whole of British art.
At Leighton House Museum, Flaming June will be shown beside the other works submitted by Leighton to the Academy that year, all of which were memorably captured and photographed on easels in Leighton’s studio immediately prior to being sent to the Academy in 1895. They make a fascinating and revealing group, representative of themes and subjects that had informed Leighton’s work over the preceding decades. The Maid with Golden Hair, Twixt Hope and Fear and Candida will be loaned from private collections with Lachrymae coming from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The re-gathering of these pictures places Flaming Juneback 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.
I am delighted that over 125 years on we can reunite these five paintings created by Leighton in the home and studio he cherished. This exhibition will be a chance for visitors to look more closely into this final body of work with Flaming June as its centrepiece and consider afresh Leighton’s achievements as an artist. I am extremely grateful to those who have loaned the works to us for the exhibition and to those who helped us track down the paintings held in private collections.
Daniel Robbins, Senior Curator at Leighton House Museum