Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (British, 1830-1896)
Property from a British Private Collection
Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (British, 1830-1896)


Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (British, 1830-1896)
oil on canvas
11 x 16 ¼ in. (28 x 41.3 cm.)
Painted in 1859.
The artist.
His studio sale; Christie's, London, 11-13 July 1896, lot 13, as A Town, Capri.
with Thomas Agnew & Sons, acquired at the above sale.
Sir Thomas David Gibson Carmichael, Bt. (1859-1926), Castle Craig, Peebleshire, acquired directly from the above, 11 July 1896.
His sale; Christie's, London, 10 May 1902, lot 29, as A Town in Capri.
with Leggatt Brothers, London, acquired at the above sale.
Private collection, UK, acquired circa 1925.
By descent to the present owner.
L. and R. Ormond, Lord Leighton, Yale, 1975, p. 153, no. 60, as Town of Capri (catalogued as untraced).
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of works by the late Lord Leighton of Stretton, Winter 1897, no. 169, as The Town of Capri.
London, Tate Britain, Pre-Raphaelite Vision: Truth to Nature, 12 February-3 May 2004, also Berlin, Altes Nationalgalerie, 12 June-19 September 2004, Madrid, Fundació 'la Caixa,' 6 October 2004-9 January 2005, pp. 211-212, 223, no. 131, illustrated.
London, Leighton House, A Victorian Master: Drawings by Frederic, Lord Leighton, 8 November 2006-25 February 2007, also Scarborough, Scarborough Art Gallery 24 March-3 June 2007, Bristol, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, 22 June-2 September 2007, Bournemouth, The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, 10 October 2007-6 January 2008, Glasgow, The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, 25 January-17 April 2008, pp. 39, 41, cat. ill. 5, unnumbered, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Of all British artists of the 19th century, Leighton was the most European. His formative years were spent in Germany and he was trained as an artist in Florence, Berlin, Frankfurt, Rome and Paris. As Richard Ormond notes ‘the painters to whom he may be most directly compared are Continental rather than British’ (R. Ormond, Frederic Leighton, London, 1996, p. 21).
Writing to his father in February 1855 from Rome, where he had lived since 1852, Frederic, Lord Leighton stated his longing to make ‘a trip to Naples, Capri, Ischia, Amalfi, and all the spots about which artist’s rave’ (R. Barrington, The Life, Letters and Work of Frederic Leighton, London, 1906, vol. I, p. 172). It took four years for his dream to become a reality, but in April 1859 Leighton embarked on a journey south through Italy before spending six weeks on the island of Capri. Unshackled from worries about work intended for public exhibition, the six weeks on Capri proved to be an incredibly fertile period, and produced a series of ravishing botanical studies, architectural drawings and plein air oil sketches. This was the first time that Leighton had made such a series of studies in oil, which demonstrate his awareness of the tradition of oil sketching en plein air popularized by neo-classical artists such as Pierre-Henri Valenciennes, as well as the work of Leighton’s contemporaries Giovanni Costa and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
CapriSunrise was painted from the pathway leading towards the south-eastern corner of the island and the Fariglioni Rocks. In the middle distance sits the town of Capri, dominated by the church of San Stefano, surrounded by buildings made of the island’s distinctive white limestone. Leighton executed the picture, along with the rest of the series, for his own pleasure and as a record of a place that he loved. In it he captured the play of early morning light upon the buildings of Capri, which glow brilliant white, and on the landscape surrounding the town. The sky is still flushed with pinks and purples but there is a suffusion of golden hues which prefigure the haze of heat that the day will bring.
The present picture and one other, Garden of an Inn, Capri, were later worked up by Leighton into the larger scale paintings that he believed were appropriate for public exhibition. Christopher Newall believes that Leighton later abandoned this practice because he realized that ‘in these larger reworkings the delicious intensity and authenticity of effect of the original sketch were lost’ (Pre-Raphaelite Vision: Truth to Nature, London, 2004, p. 223). The larger version of CapriSunrise, shown at the Royal Academy in 1860, and purchased from the artist in 1872 by John Hamilton Trist, was sold at Christie’s, London on 14 June 2000. However, this oil sketch remained in Leighton’s possession until his death when it was sold in the artist’s studio sale to the dealers Agnews, acting on behalf of Sir Thomas David Gibson Carmichael. Subsequently sold at auction by Carmichael in 1902, the picture then remained hidden from public view for over 100 years until its reappearance in the 2004 Pre-Raphaelite landscape exhibition at Tate Britain.
We are grateful to Richard and Leonee Ormond and to Daniel Robbins, Curator of the Leighton House Museum, for confirming the authenticity of this work.

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