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Frederic Leighton Flaming June, c.1895

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One of Leighton's best known and most widely reproduced works, 'Flaming June' is an exploration in colour and form. His most abandoned tribute to beauty was anticipated two decades earlier in the reclining figure of 'Summer Moon', as well as in 'Captive Andromache' and is also a possible sequel to his 'Summer Slumber' of 1894. According to Leighton, however, the monumental form, which recalls Michelangelo's 'Night' in Florence's Medici Chapel, was not intentionally arranged, but occurred naturally when the fatigued model was resting. The condensed composition was the result of many frenzied prepartory studies. There is no apparent subject matter; this is simply a depiction of a young woman sleeping in brilliant sunlight. Through the unifying curtain of luminous glow, we glimpse the sun reflecting on the sea. However, all extraneous detail was reduced, concentrating all on the confined figure, modelled by Dorothy Dene. Despite the claustrophobic setting, the figure has a certain passivity in the luxuriant ambience. Vibrant orange diaphanous drapery emerge like flames, erupting over the woman's figure and illuminating parts of her face, neck, forearms and foot. Leighton's statements in his Academy notebooks anticipated this masterpiece's execution: "A deep, slow cumulative execution... is suitable only for subjects of repose... all the qualities of a work of art must be struck in the key and appeal to the order of sensation... suffusion of colour (saturation) gives idea of an overmastering impulse."

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