Painting of The Month – Flaming June by Frederic Leighton

This month’s featured painting is Flaming June by Frederic Lord Leighton.

Frederic Lord Leighton, Flaming June, 1895
Frederic Lord Leighton, Flaming June, 1895

Click here for a high-resolution photo of the painting.

Brief Details About the Painting:

  • Oil on canvas.
  • 120 cm x 120 cm (47 in x 47 inches).
  • Completed 1895.
  • Location: Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Your Thoughts?

Use this as an opportunity to test your ability to analyze master paintings. In the comments below, share what you think are the top 3 most important aspects of the painting. These could relate to areas such as composition, color, value, progress, brushwork, subject, or symbolism. Once you have done that, you can compare your thoughts with my own in the drop-down below.

Click here to see my thoughts.

  • The reclining subject is a great demonstration of foreshortening and overlapping objects.  If you’re unfamiliar with foreshortening, refer to this post. Here’s a summary:

Foreshortening refers to the way we perceive an object as it recedes in space. It is perhaps best explained visually. Take a moment to do the following:

Place your arm in front of your body, bent at the elbow so that your forearm aligns with your chest (refer to the photo below on the left). Observe the length of your arm, from elbow to fingertips. This is an example of limited foreshortening.

Now, extend your arm straight out in front. Notice how, from this perspective, your arm appears compressed. The perceived distance from the bottom of your elbow to your top finger does not reflect the actual length of your arm. This is an example of extreme foreshortening.

The photos below are examples of what you should see, modeled by yours truly. On the left: limited foreshortening; on the right: extreme foreshortening.

Two artists who are great with foreshortening and overlapping objects are Glenn Vilpuu and Steve Huston. Here is a drawing demonstration by Glenn Vilpuu. Watch as his pencil follows the contours up, over, and around the forms.

  • There’s a contrast between rigid architecture and the subject’s soft skin tones and flowing drapery.
  • The subject’s skin and features are depicted with fine rendering and compressed values (no strong highlights or dark accents). This conveys a sense of youth and softness.
  • The drapery at the bottom helps lead our eyes into the painting. (Always looks for opportunities to arrange the composition in a way that leads the viewer into your painting. Richard Schmid’s landscapes are also a great example of this. He would use a few feature details to draw you into the painting towards the focal point.)
  • The subject’s hair melts into the surrounding drapery and clothing. This is a simple way of connecting the subject with the surroundings. The subject is both distinct and part of this environment.
  • The colors are strong, but they don’t appear out of place. Keep in mind, even the rich oranges in this painting appear to be tinted somewhat. Rarely will you need to use colors straight from the tube.

15 thoughts on “Painting of The Month – Flaming June by Frederic Leighton”

  1. The brushwork is incredible. The shadows in the gown make it flow so beautifully.
    The artist’s use of hard and soft edges takes you all over the painting to settle back to the sleeping girl.

  2. What a magnificent portrayal of a reclining figure. The lazy “S” shape of the body gently leads you up the painting to whet I consider to be the focal point – the head and left arm.
    The sheer see through fabric has been used to great effect with the extensive fold details framing the figure with a wide range of tonal variations.
    The foreshortening has been adequately dealt with and uses the upper right arm to produce the required optical perspective impression that pushes the upper body into the painting.
    The light coloured upper and lower bands including the bright sheen area to the upper bench surface provide a continuation of the bright and airy impression given by the flimsy negligee worn by the model.

  3. 1. This beautiful painting has an air of mystery inviting the viewer to ask questions. 2.The predominantly warm palette with the orange dress being echoed in the distant sea and the hair and bench top also having a little orange hue and with the leading lines within the body, the focal point of her face stands out. 3. The light falling on the sea gives contrast even though only a small part of the painting and is only in the top third of the painting whilst the main subject takes up the bottom two thirds.

  4. The rich color values , fine detailing in the fabric folds, and the technical skill exemplified in the foreshlortened figure make this a luxurious and sensually appealing painting.

  5. Incredible rendering of a chiffon gown including transparency so legs and toes show through. The lights and shadows in the gown add for elgant flowing details. I find the highlighted water over her head leads the eyes to her face; helping lead us away from too much studying of her figure. The brilliant orange allows for the name but a wonderful unusual choice.

  6. Main feature obviously the rendering of the fabric; it looks like a blousey flower with darker older petals on the outside. The girl’s position makes the whole look like a spinning wheel, so it is good that the top and bottom of the painting are held firm by strong horizontal lines. Re. your recent post on naming, the title suggests energy and life, so it seems ironic that the girl is asleep – worn out maybe? The reflective water appeared so bright when I zoomed in I actually winced and narrowed my eyes, a startling effect. The red pole in the top right is a really odd addition though, not sure what it is or why it’s there.

    • Julian, I’m wondering whether it is there along with the red fruit to balance out with the red material in the bottom left of painting?

  7. I have a print of this painting that I bought around 20 years ago. At the time there were many gift shops selling prints of Pre-Raphelite painters such as Frederick Leighton and John William Waterhouse. I particularly like the classical themes of these artists and the beautiful flowing gowns of the subjects. They’re so exquisite and rich with colour. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time copying several of the Pre-Raphaelite painters while I’ve taken a break from landscapes. So lovely that this painting has been featured.

  8. To me, I see an extraordinary composition, superb brushwork, intense colors that thrill my senses and an opening for me to create a storyline. I love it.

  9. 1. striking, delicate, filmy fabric allied with fire ( something powerful and dangerous)
    2. the painting in the background comes alive as if it were the actual scenery (it is enhanced by her figure)
    3. a sense of ease, comfort, wealth that is boxed in with only her dreams to allow an escape

  10. I am drawn to the wonder color of the gown and the transparency of the gown is incredible. The brushstrokes and detail in the fabric draws my eyes into the depths of the painting. The reflecting water in the background I think was a perfect selection.

  11. I totally agree with all previous comments. I was first attracted by the color of the gown & the creases in it .then it was her posture superbly done . I like the gentle touch of her right hand on her left arm . She looks like a fairytale princess waiting for prince charm to wake her . I wonder if the sea is there or simply a background scene .. thx for introducing such an example..

  12. I have never seen this painting before. It is beautiful. I love the scene, the brushwork, and the composition. My eyes were first drawn to the transparency and the color of her gown. Then I started to look at the shape of her body, her lovely long hair and how innocent she looks while she is sleeping and dreaming. The cool colors in the distance and the warm colors in the foreground create depth in the painting.

  13. A very relaxed pose, hyper-realistic, and thus startlingly universal and timeless (I think of a college student of today curling up to sleep on a car, bus, or plane ride home.) The gauze orange gown is odd but beautifully rendered. Very cool technical challenge. My eyes are drawn to the foot tucked under her leg, draped gauze. Very cool trick to get all that right. I notice that her hair morphs into drapery. This puts us in the realm of fantasy, or more likely symbolizes that the young woman is dreaming—of being in a beautiful luxurious place. See that she is on a balcony with a sparkling sea behind her and exotic flowers. Having said all that, something bugs me about that long upper leg and thigh all across the foreground of the painting. Is is too long and too big? Or does it have to be that size due to the perspective? In any case, I’m not liking that part. As for the rest of the pose, it takes the eye around and around the tangle of limbs–the way her arms frame her face, the look of complete peace on her face,


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