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Flaming June; an elusive piece of art


Sunday afternoon, a bit nippy in London but indeed lovely sunny afternoon. Neil and I opt to go into Kensington to see the exhibition 'Flaming June' at the Leighton House Museum.

We walked through Holland Park pathways revering in nature and fresh greenery. The park filled with a sense of London's autumnal season of leaves falling and fallen.

Entry for non-concessions is £12. Leighton House, quite a small museum (just the way I like it) was such a convenience to go through just under an hour.

Lord Fredrick Leighton lived in this museum alone in the mid 1860s. He lived and worked in the house most of his life until his death in 1896. He was the son of a doctor, he had been brought up abroad, studied at the art institute in Frankfurt, Germany where his family had settled.

The exhibition of flaming June was grouped as one of five of Lord Frederic Leighton's iconic collections all loaned from private collections and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1. Lachrymae (New York)

2. The maid with the golden hair

3. Twixt Hope and Fear

4. Candida and

5. Flaming June

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'Flaming June'

One of the most famous and widely reproduced paintings of the Victorian era – Flaming June, a searingly colourful image of a beautiful young woman drugged into sleep by the simmering heat of midsummer – is currently on loan back to the London studio where it was created in 1895.

Remarkable history!

In the early 20th century, when Victorian art was already falling out of fashion, Samuel Courtauld, the millionaire collector and founder of the Courtauld Institute, called it “the most wonderful painting in existence”.

The story of how Andrew Lloyd Webber saw Flaming June by Lord Leighton in a store window in the 60’s is legendary.

He loved the painting but did not have £50 to buy it. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it would be to find one of the finest of Victorian paintings for that price and not being able to afford it?

He trusted his eye and his heart. He did not care that the critics at that time cared nothing for that sort of Victorian sentiment, rejecting it with derogatory terms if they were forced to comment on it at all. But, he knew what he liked and he wanted that painting!

He went to his grandmother and asked her for the money to buy it but she wrote it off as kitsch and did not give him the money.