Frederic Leighton (1830–1896), Flaming June, c.1895, oil on canvas, Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.
NEW YORK, NY.- Next summer, The Frick Collection will present Sir Frederic Leighton’s celebrated painting Flaming June from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico. This monumental image of a sleeping woman in a brilliant orange gown is a masterpiece of British painting that has not been seen by New York City audiences in twenty years. Indeed, as a collection highlight of its home institution, the work is seldom lent and is rarely shown in the United States. The work will be installed on a wall in the center of the Oval Room, surrounded by the Frick’s four full-length portraits by James McNeill Whistler, an artist who was part of Leighton’s London circle. Both artists responded in different ways to the Aesthetic movement, a precursor to modernism. This single-work exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated booklet with essays by Frick Senior Curator Susan Grace Galassi and by Pablo Perez d’Ors, Associate Curator of European Paintings, Museo de Arte de Ponce. Comments Galassi, “We are very happy to have this opportunity to present a work by Frederic, Lord Leighton and to collaborate with the distinguished Puerto Rican museum―both for the first time. Seeing the British painter’s arresting masterpiece surrounded by the four full-length portraits by the American expatriate―long familiar to a Frick audience―will bring out the distinctive qualities of each of these dominating figures. We also look forward to deepening the experience for visitors through related public programming and other offerings.” Support for the exhibition is generously provided by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation and Marianna and Juan Sabater.
Frederic Leighton (1830–1896) was a prominent painter and sculptor active in London for nearly four decades. An intellectual artist known chiefly for his treatment of literary subjects, he produced a wide-ranging oeuvre that bridges academic classicism and modernism. His interests in the evocation of mood and in the harmonies of color and line in their own right are especially evident in his depictions of women in states of slumber or deep self-reflection. A favored subject of later nineteenth-century artists, the “sleeping beauty” embodied notions of timelessness and remoteness from the mundane and alluded to antique and Renaissance representations of women in repose.
Based on works by Michelangelo and developed through meticulous studies of a live model, the figure in Leighton’s Flaming June appears at once a carefully wrought design and supremely natural. The woman’s sinuous form fills the space of the picture. Her torso and limbs are compressed into a rhythmic arrangement of curves and angles. With remarkable skill, Leighton conveys the weight of the body and suggests the pulse of living flesh beneath gauzy veils of fabric. The vibrant colors of gown, scarves, and hair blaze against cool white stone, and the reflection of the bright midday sun on the shimmering sea in the background evokes a sultry atmosphere brimming with sensuality. The bold approach both to color and to the presentation of the female body distinguishes this modern classical masterpiece.