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Flaming June painting by Frederic Leighton

Flaming June Painting
Flaming June Painting by Frederic Leighton

Who painted flaming June?

The painting titled Flaming June is the masterpiece of Sir Frederic Leighton in 1895.  Frederic Leighton is one of the most proficient and eminent artists of the Victorian era. The painting is a distillation of Leighton’s lifelong preoccupation with formal beauty.

He was born on 3rd December 1830 in Scarborough, England and in 1840 moved to Europe with his family. His artistic education was intensely European in nature. Leighton was criticized for his open realism ideology and was known for his approach towards nature and poetic idealism.

History of Flaming June by Frederic Leighton

The oil painting Flaming June with dimensions 119.1 x 119.1 cm have a very interesting history. A year before Frederic’s death he submitted few of his paintings for the royal academy exhibition. Before the commencement of the official exhibition, he arranged a screening of the painting he submitted.

Surprisingly the painting was not much appreciated by the views. It was only after the late 1960s when the paintings were rediscovered over a chimney in a house in Battersea. A person named Andrew Lloyd Webber saw it in a shop at kings’ road but his grandmother refused to buy any Victorian junk. The painting was auctioned soon after but could bid the price it deserved.

Finally, it was purchased by the museum founder, Luis Ferre, from London gallery in 1963 at a time when Victorian art had fallen out of fashion. The painting is presently at Museu De Arte De Ponce in Puerto Rico.

It was founded some fifty years ago, to bring European art to the Caribbean, the ponce museum holds one of the most important collects of Victorian painting outside of the British Isles. Flaming June is the highlight of the collection.

Frederic Leighton produced the large body of work of paintings, drawings and sculptures and served as the longtime president of the royal academy. He often took subject matter from classical and renaissance sources. We can see him in his self-portrait against the backdrop of the Parthenon frieze wearing a medal of the president of the academy.

Flaming June expression

In flaming June an idealized figure appears within an imaginary classical setting wearing a semi-transparent gown. Although lost in a dream, her body is charged with energy.

The composition keeps our eyes moving around the figure from the top of her head stepping down to her angled elbow and knees and up again through her curved back to her head. The pose, in fact, looks back to Michael Angelo’s famous tomb of the sculpture of night, made for the Medici chapel in Florence.

In both the figure the object is asleep, her head bowed down and the legs are sharply bent with a knee jutting up and the thigh elongated. Variations of this pose appear in other works that Leighton painted at this time.

In creating flaming June, he posed a nude model in his studio, trying out different positions that matched his mental image. Leighton abstracted the body as he went along in search of the most expressive form, now elongating the length of the right leg.

Once satisfied with the pose, he drew the figure in sheer drapery that reveals as well as conceals the body and adds movement through the fluttering folds.

In his final drawing for the painting, he brought the figure and setting together within a square format for his canvas, a perfect foil to the circular figure. Leighton made another critical step, introducing the brilliant orange of her dress, one of the most striking features of the work set off by the darker tones of the drapery strewn over the bench.

Colour brings into the focus other parts of the composition a bouquet of oleanders on the ledge just above her and a glimpse of the shining sea as well as the scalloped edge of an awning which replaced by a straight edge in the final painting.

A master of form, colour and design, Leighton brings all of the elements of his art together in this enduring, sensual image, the purest expression of his aesthetic ideals.

Flaming June Exhibition / Location

Presently the painting is in Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island with its owner and comes out on occasions of exhibitions. Recently it was showcased at the Leighton House Museum in London from 4th November 2016- 2nd April 2017, where various artists appreciated its beauty and cherished its warmth and some criticised it for its irrational application of imagination.

In 2015, this magnificent painting and its preparatory sketch were seen alongside the Frick’s full-length portraits by James McNeill Whistler, Leighton’s contemporary and another towering figure in the London art world in the late 19th century.

Flaming June meaning

The expression “Flaming June” is beloved by headline writers, implying that the month traditionally brings tropical warmth. However, the phrase is not directly connected with the weather.

The painting can be said to be a Victorian art of studying the laziness in summer heat or a study of an astounding orange drape flowing around a woman’s curves. The painting depicts a woman, on her terrace, enjoying a nap during a hot summer day. She is covered with orange drape and her hair merges with her shawl in a swirling wave. The pose of the woman is more fancy than cozy and comfortable.

Maybe the artists wanted it to be. Maybe it is the lack of knowledge of the artists which could not depict a cozy and enjoyable position of the women as some criticize. The blend of orange drapes oozed the warmth from the painting, her face looks serene but is also flushed. She depicts calmness yet shows signs of internal disturbances.

Some critics have interpreted her something for which she needed the rest. The painting is more than just the graciously beautiful curls and gauzy transparencies. It depicts the elegancy a woman has, a notorious pose which depicts her innocence, exhausted by the heat and her pink cheeks which is the evidence of her presence earlier at the same place.

The branch of oleander at the top right corner suggests the delicate link between dreams and end. The branch symbolises the difference between death and sleep which can be seen in the painting. Flaming June is a fantasy that offers to sleep away from all the tiredness and disturbances around us engaging in a peaceful yet dramatic sleep.

Using Hyperbole, Flaming June is labelled with the phrase “Mona Lisa of the southern hemisphere”

Some critic argues on the exoticness of the painting and the proportionless body flexibility Leighton has painted and some whereas claims this to be the charm of Leighton to produce an art linking imagination and reality. The painting is a classic depiction of Leighton’s sleeping beauty with eyes widely closed and face filled with serenity.

Critics define it as a peachy confection and elaborating on its beauty, mentions her Leighton’s sleeping beauty, though, seems untroubled.

What is inquisitively interesting is the background of the painting which suggests a hot and blazing evening allowing the woman to wrap herself in the orange sheets which are translucent in nature. The background sea shines like a liquid metal which bounces back the sunlight verifying the month to be of mid-summer.

It is painted with high accuracy and depicts subtle timid freedom. Some critics consider that the curves in the human body and the folds in her clothing depicts a shape of the rose making the painting extremely dazzling, appealing and a pleasant art form.

Unfortunately, Leighton could not see his paintings becoming one of the most famous and remarkable art pieces which people come to see from far off places and died on 25th January 1896 due to heart issues.