Frederic Leighton PRA
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Frederic Leighton PRA (1830 - 1896)

Baron Frederic "Lord Leighton of Stretton" Leighton PRA
Born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[spouse(s) unknown]
Died at age 65 in London, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 7 Apr 2009
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Frederic Leighton was a prominent English painter and sculptor of the 19th century, well-known for his great paintings of historical and biblical scenes.


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Frederic Leighton PRA is Notable.
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Frederic Leighton PRA was born in Yorkshire, England.

Frederic Leighton was born on 3 December 1830 in Scarborough in Yorkshire, the third of five children of Dr Frederic Leighton and Augusta Nash. He was christened 6 January 1831 in Scarborough[1]. The family were there for his mother's health, which was never strong. The eldest child of the family, Fanny, had died not long before.

Frederic was educated at University College School in Gower Street, London.

Due to his mother's poor health the family spent a lot of time abroad, particularly in warmer climes[2]. Leighton first studied art in these various European locations. The family hence does not feature in either the 1841 or 1851 censuses.

By 1853, aged 23, he was studying in Florence[2]. While there he painted his first major work: Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna Carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence, a vast painting of a medieval procession. The colours and composition are strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood. When it was exhibited at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition in 1855 it was a huge success. On the opening day Queen Victoria bought it for 600 guineas. In her diary she wrote: There was a very big picture by a man called Leighton. It is a beautiful painting, quite reminding one of a Paul Veronese, so bright and full of light. Albert was enchanted with it—so much so that he made me buy it.[3]

Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna Carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence

With royal approval, Leighton was set. He was by all accounts also a born leader and close friend. He had become a acquaintance of the Brownings while in Florence and in 1860 he was commissioned by Robert Browning to design the tomb for his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the English Cemetery in Florence. He spent 1861 in that city. This remarkable work demonstrated that there was much more than just painting to Leighton.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's tomb

In 1864 he became an Associate of the Royal Academy and in 1868 a full member[2].

By the time of the 1871 Census[4] he was living in his house in Holland Park Road, Kensington. With him were three servants: a housekeeper/cook, a butler/valet and a housemaid. He was listed as 'Artist (Painter)'. His father and two sisters lived nearby, but never with him. Leighton was famously private, he had no companion at any stage of his life, either male or female.

Leighton was an enthusiastic member of the militia. He had been one of the first, in 1860, to volunteer to serve in what would become the Artists Rifles. In 1875 he became its commanding officer and a Lieutenant Colonel[5].

In 1877, Leighton decided to branch into sculpture. Without a commission (he was wealthy enough not to need one) he created a life-sized classical bronze statue: An Athlete Wrestling with a Python[6]. The result was stunning and created an entirely new artistic movement: New Sculpture. It was awarded the gold medal for sculpture at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878 and was bought on behalf of the British nation for £2,000, the first sculpture acquired for the national art collection.

An Athlete Wrestling with a Python

In 1878 he became President of the Royal Academy (PRA) at the relatively young age of 47, a tribute to his leadership of the British artistic field. He was also knighted by the queen[2]. One of his fellow artists was heard to quip: Colonel of the Royal Academy and the President of the Artists Rifles – aye, and he paints a little![5].

In 1881 he was still living alone in the same house, again with just the three servants[7]. He was listed as 'Painter, Pres. RA'

In 1886 he was created a baronet[2].

In 1891 he was again listed living alone in Holland Park Road[8] With him was the same faithful valet and three other household servants.

In 1895 he painted what is perhaps his most famous painting, Flaming June, a confident masterpiece which demonstrates his mastery of colour.

Flaming June

In the New Year's Honours of 1896 he was created a lord, the first artist to be so honoured[2]. The patent creating him Lord Leighton of Stretton in the County of Shropshire was issued on 24 January. The following day he died of a heart attack at the age of 65, the shortest lived barony in British History. He was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral[9].

After his death in 1896[10], his home was turned into the Leighton House Museum[11], filled with his creative works.


  1. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ( : 11 February 2018, Frederick Leighton, 06 Jan 1831); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 919,206, 919,208
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography vol 33
  4. "England and Wales Census, 1871", database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 April 2019), Frederick Leighton, 1871.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Barry Gregory. A History of The Artists Rifles 1859–1947. Pen & Sword. 2006
  7. "England and Wales Census, 1881," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 December 2017), Fredk Leighton, Kensington, London,Middlesex, England; from "1881 England, Scotland and Wales Census," database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing p. 9, Piece/Folio 27/134, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey; FHL microfilm 101,774,319.
  8. "England and Wales Census, 1891," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 1 May 2019), Frederick Leighton, Kensington, London, England, United Kingdom; from "1891 England, Scotland and Wales census," database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing PRO RG 12, London county, subdistrict, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.
  10. "England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007," database, FamilySearch ( : 31 December 2014), Frederic Leighton, 1896; from "England & Wales Deaths, 1837-2006," database, findmypast ( : 2012); citing Death, Kensington, London, England, General Register Office, Southport, England.
  11. Leighton House Museum

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