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Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896), was one of the most famous British artists of the nineteenth century. The recipient of many national and international awards and honours, he was well acquainted with members of the royal family and with most of the great artists, writers and politicians of the late Victorian era.
He preferred to paint subject matter that was connected to ancient Greek and Roman mythology. He intended for his paintings to be visually beautiful, and his work then and now has a reputation for luminous colours and solidly drawn figures. Leighton's contemporaries included the French Impressionist painters and he would have seen the work of Monet, Renoir and others in both Paris and London.
Leighton said of the Impressionists that 'Impressionism is a reaction from the old conventionalism, but an impressionist must not forget that it is the deep-sinking and not the fugitive impressions which are the best'. Leighton's role at the Royal Academy included the education of younger artists.
He did succeed in becoming 'eminent in art' with Queen Victoria buying his first painting in 1855 and in 1878 he reached the pinnacle of his profession, becoming the President of the Royal Academy of Arts. He never married and just before his death from heart failure in 1896, he was ennobled, becoming Frederic, Lord Leighton, Baron of Stretton. He is the only British artist to have been awarded this honour and is buried in St Paul's Cathedral.