Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Edmund B. Leighton: A Brush With Refinement


Edmund Blair Leighton, British Painter 1853-1922


A few years ago, the only paintings I knew of Edmund B. Leighton were Stitching the Standard and Favour.  Many more of his paintings have gone to auction and been photographed and reproduced for the public to enjoy. He was very talented at painting human figures, and so accurate with his backgrounds of bridges, doorways, entries, buildings and other structures, that one might think his secondary interest was architecture. Linger a little at each painting and look into the backgrounds. Notice the roof tops, the gates, the boardwalks, the oval entries and the building structures. He included these in many of his backgrounds.

During his life as an artist, his critics claimed he was just living in the past, and that his art would probably be unknown to future generations. How wrong they were: today, thanks to people who share his work on the web,  Edmund B. Leighton's canvases are enjoyed by young and old alike and his work is probably more popular than it was during his own lifetime. His paintings are a little evidence to we moderns of the clothing and building materials that people admired.

As you look at the paintings and read the titles, you can certainly see what Edmund Blair Leighton admired the most in life: ladies going to or coming home from worship services, gentlemen tipping their hats, beautiful fabrics, country scenery, and stone structures on which he sometimes signed his name. By beholding the paintings for awhile, you can probably figure out the story going on in each one.

I have posted here only a fraction of the paintings now available for public viewing.  Some of the paintings seemed to me to be a kind of series, as they had similar themes and faces.He collected swords, helmets, furniture and other things from former days, which he used as props for his paintings. His wife reportedly helped him a great deal by sewing the costumes depicted in his paintings.  He painted a world that was fast fading from his own times. Those who live the country life today will be able to appreciate the scenes created by  this Victorian artist.


Sunday Morning, 1891
by Edmund Blair Leighton


A Nibble
by Edmund Blair Leighton


Waiting
by Edmund Blair Leighton

The Gallant Suitor
by Edmund Blair Leighton


A Quiet Moment
by Edmund Blair Leighton


After (church) Service
by Edmund Blair Leighton


Chaff
by Edmund Blair Leighton

Sorrow and Song
by Edmund Blair Leighton

Look carefully in the background of this painting and see the story that is going on. I wonder if the boat in the distance is carrying a family in mourning, hence, the title that was given. The young lady in the boat in the foreground seems to be looking over at the other boat, making me wonder what she is thinking. Edmund Blair Leighton's paintings all seemed to have a story going on inside of them.

Wash Day 1898
by Edmund Blair Leighton



Ribbons and Laces
by Edmund Blair Leighton



A Wet Sunday Morning
by Edmund Blair Leighton



Sweet Solitude
by Edmund Blair Leighton




Favour
by Edmund Blair Leighton



Lay Thy Sweet Hand in Mine And Trust Me
by Edmund B. Leighton


On the Threshold
by Edmund Blair Leighton


A Fond Farewell
by Edmund B. Leighton

Lilacs
by Edmund B. Leighton


The Request
by Edmund Blair Leighton

Leighton in 1816
by Edmund B. Leighton

The Shadow
by Edmund Blair Leighton

Market Day
by E. B. Leighton

September
by E.B. Leighton

The Golden Train
by Edmund B. Leighton


Courtship
by E.B. Leighton


Stitching the Standard
by E.B. Leighton



The Accolade by Edmund Blair Leighton.


A few years ago I reviewed briefly the plight of these Victorian painters who brought life so vividly to the canvas and compared them to the 19th century radicals who wanted to squirt paint all over the place and call it art, leaving only the most sophisticated intellectual to understand it.

 Paintings such as those you see listed here, need very little more than a glance to reach your heart with their message, and it takes only a moment to see the story inside of it. The average person does not have to have the painting explained to them. 

 When the modern-art painters came on the scene, they knew they would need more than just a showing of their paintings, to make them popular and to sell, so they ridiculed the Victorian painters and their work, using the media to print all kinds of things that would create doubt about the value of their work. 

 They could not exist, side by side, with this wonderful art,  so, some of them  put powerful pressure on the museums and art schools to remove the old paintings and substitute the modern art, with verbal shame tactics that made people feel they were not being fair or open minded if they did not exhibit the modern art and put aside the realists. 

 Seventy-five to a hundred years later, the old paintings surfaced out of the attics and basements and back rooms, and were put on auction.  What a loss that even our own grandparents had never seen art like this, as it was hidden from the eyes of the world for so long, to make way for the likes of Picasso (a communist who hated America but who gladly took the money from the American people for his "art"), and Henry Matisse, Edward Munch, Marc Chagall, and many others. 

 Visiting a nearby museum that featured Winterhalter in one room, and, across from that room,  a modern artist, visitors naturally drifted to Winterhalter. The modern artists were long deceased, but they must have observed this during their own time, and figured the only thing to do to promote their work would be to get rid of the competition.  They succeeded for many years in keeping many of the Victorian paintings in the dark. 

 As more of these beautiful paintings come to light, I realize what a great influence they are on refinement and manners of our own times. Perhaps that is what it was all about: a war between the rude and the crude, and the refined and the mannerly. The way the prevailing culture dresses and behaves, looks more like "The Scream" than "Coming Home From Church." 

 I have been ridiculed, without success, by these same kinds of liberals, for years, over my insistence that these beautiful Victorian paintings, which can be purchased as posters, should be on display on the poster racks at WalMart, instead of pictures of  the so-called stars that young women drool over.  Both have an influence, but one will be positive, and one will be deadening and negative.  One kind of art gives life and optimism in the hearts of young people. Another, gives them a dead-end.

 Pictures do have an influence on young people, and that is why I say that they need to have these kinds of paintings in their rooms to wake up to in the morning. If parents cannot afford them, then, at least, they can buy calendars with good art on them.  I am currently working on a Leighton calendar for next year, which I will offer here. If that cannot be done, at least, show them the paintings and encourage them to make their own, or just to observe nature and scenery around them at every opportunity, enjoying God's great big painting of the sky and the sea and the land. Young people are either going to scare us all to death in the future, with their values, or they are going to inspire and give us security in knowing they will follow what is good and right. Good art has an effect on their souls.

These artists are still inspiration, as we note their time in history, which was a time of turmoil. Having lived through national calamities and wars, they continued to produce beautiful, peaceful paintings that showed the glory of God's creation, dignity and honour.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,

A beautiful series. Thank you for posting the pictures. It just makes one feel "calm" when viewing.

Esther

Anonymous said...

The paintings are very beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I like the new Bible quote at the top of your page as well. It is a good reminder.

Anonymous said...

Those are truly beautiful works of art. The colors are gorgeous and I especially like those paintings that depict coming from or going to church. Lovely.
~Rhonda

Anonymous said...

I could totally picture myself in many of these paintings.

It must have been fun to be all dressed up in pretty fabric, lace and ribbon and do any number of fun things:
Ride in a row boat with a man at the oars, answer the door to find a ribbon and lace vender with samples to purchase, hang clothes on the line on a fair and sunny day, climb a tree and pick fruit or sit in a quiet pretty garden and read a favorite book. Sigh

Guess I'd better get back to work.
Thanks for sharing, I love the costumes and paintings. They truly tell a story.

Anonymous said...

These pictures are stunning. I am so glad they are more available now. Thank you for bringing them to our attention. One more thing to make our bright and cheerful homes a place of refinement too.

Anonymous said...

I feel that these paintings are the finest and most beautiful you have shown us to date! To buy several prints would be a fine investment for our souls.....

Lynn M

LadyLydia said...

I hope viewers in France are not offended by the Leighton in 1816 painting. I chose it for its beauty.


Noticed the different kinds of fabrics in the paintings, as well as the variety of building materials, such as woods, stone, bricks. Look at the different natural and country backgrounds, as well.

Anonymous said...

Those are beautiful paintings. I would love to be able to just walk in and sit down in Sweet Solitude or September as an escape to pressures of everyday life.

You are so right about WalMart poster displays. I just cringe when I walk by them and see effeminate vampires and other pictures that 20 years ago would have been considered positively pornographic. In fact, I try my best to avoid that aisle and head straight for the fabric dept.

Thank you for posting the artwork. I plan on making a list of the ones I would like to purchase someday when I am able.

LadyLydia said...

You can make them into an art book of your own by printing them on special paper or photograph paper. I hope to one day make a small, affordable book out of them, with a free or very inexpensive download.

Nocturnal Queen said...

Edmund B. Leighton is one of my favorite artists. My favorite is John William Waterhouse. I also enjoy the paintings of Sir Frank Dicksee, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Frederic Lord Leighton, Daniel F. Gerhartz and Daniel Pollera.

LadyLydia said...

Yes, these posters are just as available to buy in bulk by stores like WalMart, as are the bad posters. Both are available, and it is a matter of choice by the merchandisers and those who are buying for the stores. They are just as capable of offerring the Edmund Leighton posters as the Lady Gaga posters. One will refine and lift the soul, and the other will be gone when it is replaced by an even more outrageous "star."

appledapple said...

These are truly lovely, thank you for sharing them!

Anonymous said...

After spending some time viewing these painting, I felt I was going about my housework whilst living in another era. It was altogether sweet and ennobling and felt like life was as it should be. As I wear longer dresses even at home, it was an even more happy experience. I just wish I had a boat and a stream to sail down while taking lunch!!

LadyLydia said...

Mrs. Leighton purchased the fabric and sewed the costumes for her husband's paintings. You mentioned the fabric department. I was saddened to see that this time of year they sell vampire and ghoulish prints, featuring the skulls and things that celebrate death and Hell. We have to show young girls how to love the pure, the lovely, the good, and the virtuous. Their tastes have to be educated and trained, so that they will be attracted to what is beautiful and reflects God's creation.

LadyLydia said...

The chronilogical dates on the paintings indicate that in spite of the effort against them, and the negative press, these painters continued to produce masterpieces, seemingly not dependent upon the approval of the mainstream. I think this is a great message for homemakers, because they must continue to do their best, inspite of the negative remarks levelled at them, and to live as though they were in a painting, because in sense, it is the world they create for themselves and their families. We as homemakers cannot allow the prevailing culture to affect the enthusiasm with which we create and serve. The reaction against the pressures against homemaking should be just to create another nice room, another nice meal, or sew a new dress. In the end, you come out ahead of the critics, who are left with nothing, while you have your accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and we were just in there today to check the 1.50/yd. table and saw some of those ugly ghoulish looking prints you mention.

I also try to stay away from Michael's craft store this time of year, as some of their displays would scare a child into having nightmares.
Hobby Lobby is much farther but worth the drive.

LadyLydia said...

Marcus Stone is also one I wish to feature, put in a $6.98 booklet and have a free or one dollar download for. I think a collection of these paintings in little books could suffice as art-literature readers for the home.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your encouragement. I am always kind of amazed at how well it "works" to give a good diet of beautiful culture to my children. At ages 10 on down, my boys, in many ways have higher standards than I do!

I kept expecting them to be a little embarrased of my "dowdy mommy dresses" that I made this year, but I cannot tell you how many times they have made a point(!) of thanking me for wearing dresses and not embarrassing them in public by being dressed sloppily like all the other people they see. :) It's amazing. They don't say it in a haughty way, they are being sincere. Their little eyes get as big as saucers at some of the sights we see.

A few times I have attempted to run errands in sweats, like I used to. They always politely mention that they would be glad to wait while I change my clothes. :)

They don't feel dressed right unless their shirt has a collar on it, and they love to look nice, and keep their hair short. I haven't pushed this on them. It is a sweet thing to me for them to feel this way on their own.

To me, homeschooling is mostly about finding everything good in the world, and continuing to feed it to them every day. It will be the goodness they draw on for the rest of their lives. They come by enough awful stuff naturally - the good things have to be worked at to find.

LadyLydia said...

Homeschooling truly is an opportunity to provide refinement to your children. The Prophets referred to the Messiah as "a refiner's fire," able to purify. Any time the truths of Christ are put into practice, they can provide refinement. That reminds me that I need to put up a post featuring artwork for homeschool boys. As I said before, you may make your own books by copying off the paintings on quality paper. i once suggested to an owner of an art site that he publish a book with the Victorian art, that would be suitable for a family coffee table. I think anyone could do that, really, as long as they had the paintings, names, dates of artist accurate, and did some research about the artists.

LadyLydia said...

I really like the beautiful dresses here, as well as the men's clothes, particularly the man's shirt in the boat scene. I know of a sewing site that used the 19th century paintings as examples for their sewing for one month. I made the dress in "Off" by Edmund Blair Leighton, and I think it is on here somewhere. If not, I will photograph it again sometime before I wear it completely out. I do not have the painting "Off" on here but you may find it on the web somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Mothers should be concerned about the clothing their children will remember on their mother. Nothing is more embarrassing than an overweight mom in shorts and a tank top. None of our great grandmothers photographs show them in any clothing less than dignified.

Anonymous said...

I really like these paintings, both for the subject matter, and the skill with which they're painted. A couple of them, especially, I found particularly attractive: A Quiet Moment, On the Threshold, & The Golden Train.

I was reminded of something else as well while reading your post, Mrs. Sherman. I remember seeing something once on television about a museum in a larger city (wish I could recall where), & the various modern art exhibits there. As we were treated to a look at this painting or that sculpture, the documentary voice would say a few words about the artist, or why the work was important. Then, we suddenly see an awful exhibit of open, distorted mouths, tongues lolling out, & something resembling v**it on the floor. This alleged art was supposed to represent all the horror of women's lives before feminism, & the ongoing torments & inequities that women suffer even still. Was anybody admiring this display? No. You could see people milling around examining other exhibits, but not this one. Then, comes the voice-over, explaining away the lack of admirers....something about how people can't stand to look at it because of the difficult subject it addresses. If the "art" itself wasn't offensive enough, the stupid drivel of the commentary that accompanied it really had me shaking my head.

Brenda

LadyLydia said...

That seemed to be the reaction to the modern art display, which was supposed to be Impressionist. It was in a room connected by a broad landing or hallway to the room where the Winterhalter paintings were on tour. The people were drawn to Winterhalter, but apparently bored by the other display.

Of course, the signs in the modern section were sure to explain the painting, to try and convince the viewers of their value. However, the response of the visitors was the best measure of its success. Most people are attracted to real beauty and repulsed by horror and ugliness. It is disturbing, however, to see the popular culture of horror in clothing, movies, posters, music and activities.

Anonymous said...

Lydia,
I like what you said, "encourage them to make their own." In the homemaking book by Edith Shaffer she talks about doing our best in every endeavor. This would include art if we are so inclined and talented.

I wonder how many of us might have hidden art talents that were never developed. I would love to see gorgeous paintings like these revived and maybe some new ones. Maybe there are some families that could develop art in their children so that the next generation will have pleasant things to look at.

Anonymous said...

Another thing that really stands out to me with these paintings is the expressions on the woman's faces. It is uncommon to see women today with beautiful, gentle, humble expressions on their face.

LadyLydia said...

You might be able to "make your own" paintings to hang by printing these on good paper. Try a linen paper that looks like canvas, and frame them in small frames. I do not know if they will print out very large, but at least they give something to dwell on that is lovely.

You are right: most of the paintings of that period showed a sweet innocence on the women's faces, which is so different than the sardonic, sarcastic, sneering, "life sucks" look of today.

LadyLydia said...

If you have the right computer program, you can make your own calendar with the 19th century paintings.

Jo said...

I am new to your blog, I just love Edmund B Leigton, just beautiful.

I am an art fan and each Wednesday I do an art segment where I share my favourite artists, most I chose are unknown ones that have long been forgotten.

Anonymous said...

I had always had pictures of real nature in our home. When you started showing us paintings of people and why so long ago it had a big influence on our home. Little by little we were able to gather and display many beautiful older prints. As you said they have really influenced everyone in the home. We love seeing people in them enjoying the simple pleaseurs of life or working togther. The colors and style of clothing etc is so soothing and inspiring. None of the prints cost much as we kept our eyes out at sales and got them used and in beautiful frames. Their measure in our home is priceless. Thankyou again Lady Lydia. Sarah

LadyLydia said...

Sometimes you can find this kind of art on post cards at museams. It can be framed in dollar store frames and adds a great thing to your home. When you find paintings of people, look to find values in them, from what the people are doing in the painting.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I have five professionally framed Emdmund Blair Leighton pictures in my home. I bought The Accolade and had it framed for my (now) husband while we were dating (my father is a certified picture framer, and he had sent me to framing schol as well. I was used to picking out framing for clients at his shop, but this one was hard! My friend told me to choose carefully, as this picture might hang in my own house one day! I had not even realized that possibility until she said that. My husband actually proposed to me within 3 weeks of me giving him the picture).

I have a giclee of Stitching the Standard. I have 2 copies each of The Accolade and God Speed. My husband liked those pictures so much that when he expanded his office, he bought giant versions of those two from AllPosters.com and had those framed so that he could see them at his office. When he downsized a few years later, the office pictures came home. I replaced The Accolade hanging over my piano with a MUCH larger version of the Accolade, and hung the smaller one in my husband's home office. The larger God Speed is in there with it, and the smaller one hangs in one of my daugther's rooms.

We also have 2 similar pictures hanging in the room with the largest one; one is more recently done, of a king, and one is dome by a contmporary artist of Leighton's.

You were wonderful to show some of Blair's paintings that I had not seen.

I just looked again at Allposters.com, and they have SEVERAL pictures of his available now that were NOT available years ago when we were choosing our pictures. I had researched some of these online and in art books, and now that I have seen thatthey are available, I will have to show my husband. He might want to change one of the duplicates out :)

Signing the Register is also one of Blair's more-well-known pieces as well that I particularly like.

Thank you again for what you put together in this post. It was beautiful. If you ever seek to hang some of his artwork in your home, know that a poster or a print look the same behind glass and mats :)

Lady B said...

Remarkably beautiful art, looking at such creativity and beauty has a peacful calming and healing effect to the soul.

Edmund.B.Leighton was Truly talented and used his talent to Bless others and Honor God, through capturing and depicting Gods creation in such a marvelous way. Wow! Thanks for introducing us to such wonderful works of art

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