Favourites on Friday - Edmund Blair Leighton, painter

Another of my favourite painters; the first painting of his I saw (as a poster) was ‘Godspeed’ – fell in love with it immediately as it appealed to my love of medieval romance, knights and chivalry and the like.


Edmund Blair Leighton was born in September 1852.  His father, Charles Blair Leighton, was a young artist, and his mother, Caroline, was formerly a Boosey, from the family of music publishers.  His father died young, leaving a pregnant Caroline to bring up Edmund, aged three, his 5-year-old sister, Fanny and, later, little Nellie.  Caroline opened a school for girls, which proved quite successful and she was able to support the children.  But Edmund was sent to a boarding school.

Although Blair Leighton enjoyed drawing, he couldn’t pursue it as a career to begin with, for being an artist only pays well if one is well known.  But some years working in the tea business meant he could save enough money to start training as an artist.  He started by taking night classes and eventually gained entry to the five year programme at the Royal Academy of Art School in 1874.  Between 1878 and 1920, he exhibited regularly at the RA.

He became a member of the Langham Sketch Club in 1878, and 2 years later was given the honour of serving as its president.  In 1885, he married Katherine Nash, and they had 2 children, a son and a daughter.

The peak of Blair Leighton’s career was around 1900 when he painted, among others, ‘Godspeed’ (1900), and ‘The Accolade’ (1901).  He continued to paint great masterpieces until, more or less, the end of his life; he died in September 1922.

Of all his paintings, I still love the medieval ones the best … you could write a story based on each one.

'The Accolade' - don't know why but this always makes me think of Guinevere and Lancelot

'King Copetua and the Beggar Maid' (learned the poem by Tennyson while in school)

'The Shadow'; touching story - she's drawing the outline of his profile before he leaves, the only reminder she'll have of him until, she hopes, he returns from war.

'In Time of Peril'

'The Hostage'