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Leighton's Flaming June - Analysis of a painting
- Flaming June, by Frederic, Lord Leighton,1895
To know more about the painting, click here.
Can you imagine a ball of fire at rest? Oxymoronish, but that's what the subject of the painting is. Is this picture dynamic or static? It is obviously a subject of serenity and repose, but why is it titled that way? My answer to these is that she is a resting ball of fire, passion congealed in repose.
Dorothy Dene, the actress, modelled for 'Flaming June.' She was his favourite, and can be seen in many of his works. She was supposed to have a classical figure, and flawless skin. You can appreciate her beauty and the artist's skill in portraying it in the pictures at the right. Click on the images to appreciate her a bit more.
The Composition of Flaming June
Back to the painting under discussion. I can see some tricks of composition used here. The lovely lady is sensousness at rest, and there is a juxtaposition of dynamic lines and restful ones. Her form is a swirling curve, with a myriad of tiny waves and curvlets swimming around. That makes her a ball of fire inspite of her restful pose. To heighten that tension, she is set against dominant horizontal lines, which contributes to stability and security of the background. Take a look; I will wait here for you.
There's another trick he has used to increase this contrast. Note the carved scrolls behind her and that pattern above? These rhythms are visual lullabies, going on and on. While she's dynamically curled in the centre!
Her foot slightly steps out of the horizontal structure, giving the illusion that she's real and can step out of the frame anytime. Go check. Please.
Leighton was a master colourist. The sleeping beauty is in a bright orange, against a bluish background. More contrast! Flaming orange, simmering blue, and the blacks and browns of embers justify the title. A visual pun, indeed, of smouldering beauty!