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Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton

Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton, by Harry Furniss, 1880s-1900s -NPG 3484 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton

by Harry Furniss
Pen and ink on Bristol board, 1880s-1900s
8 in. x 3 7/8 in. (202 mm x 97 mm)
NPG 3484

Inscriptionback to top

Signed in ink bottom right-hand corner: ‘Hy. F.’;
inscr. in pencil bottom left-hand corner: ‘1’;
in faint blue pencil along left-hand margin: ‘Royal Academy … [illegible]’.

This portraitback to top

This drawing is perhaps intended as a caricature of Leighton at the Annual Banquet of the Royal Academy. In his comical publication, Royal Academy Antics (1890), Furniss revealed his opinion of this lavish event, describing it as a ‘trade institution. Booksellers have their dinners, cheesemongers have theirs – why not the proprietors of an art store? It is to advertise their wares and feed their patrons.’[1] Indeed, the artist has portrayed Leighton as the keen and willing host, eager to please and impress. He stands in evening dress as if poised to greet his guests, with hands clasped expectantly to the front. In the effort to form a welcoming expression, his features have contorted into a strange grimace, with eyebrows raised and mouth pointing downwards at the corners. This is a departure from the usual glamorous image of the sitter, yet despite his tone of mockery, Furniss is compelled to acknowledge Leighton’s considerable social skills: ‘Sir Frederick certainly works hard, shaking hands or bowing to the thousands as they pass him.’[2]

The inscription on the work suggests that it may have been published. If so, the place of publication has not been identified. Aside from numerous quick illustrations of the sitter in Royal Academy Antics, another drawing of Leighton by Furniss (head-and-shoulders) was reproduced in the Strand Magazine in 1902 (see ‘All known portraits, By other artists, publ. 1902').[3]

See NPG collection 3337–3535, 3554–3620

Elizabeth Heath

Footnotesback to top

1) Furniss 1890b, p.75.
2) Furniss 1890b, p.79.
3) Strand, vol.24, 1902, p.308.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length, standing to left, hands clasped in front, feet parted and legs slightly bent at the knees, with abundant head of hair and long beard ending in two points, wearing black frock coat and a large loose spotted bow tie.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1980.

Provenanceback to top

The artist; his sons, from whom purchased (through Theodore Cluse), April 1947

Exhibitionsback to top

Harry Furniss: Confessions of a Caricaturist, NPG, London, 1983 (21).

View all known portraits for Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton

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