Artist Frederic Leighton's ability to create sumptuous paintings of Classical subjects was legendary. In works such as Captive Andromache and The Return of Persephone, Leighton demonstrated his genius at capturing the melancholy beauty of Greek mythology, and established himself as a master of Victorian Classicism. However, Lord Leighton also excelled at evoking the mood of nostalgia for the Golden Age of ancient Greece that so appealed to Nineteenth century audiences. And this talent is revealed in a painting such as Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea.
In this image, we see how deftly the artist could conjure up confections to delight the eyes and refresh the spirit. Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea is a masterpiece of decorative charm. There is no real subject, no heavy message - only a lovely group of women arranged in a pleasing and harmonious composition. It is the clothing worn by the four women that especially establishes the ancient setting, for these fluttering draperies are inspired by Greek garments. Leighton has used bright, warm colors in the draperies, ranging from a delicate ivory to a rich russet. These earth tones contrast beautifully with the soft blues of the water.
The decorative quality of Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea has led scholars such as Christopher Newall to label the painting as "...a seminal work of the Aesthetic Movement." Indeed, it is easy to see the similarities between the painting and pieces by Aesthetic artists like James McNeill Whistler and G.F. Watts.
The Art of Lord Leighton
In this beautiful book, author Christopher Newall examines the life and works of eminent Victorian artist Frederic Leighton. The chapters deal with Leighton's evolution as a painter, from his early phase as "The Outsider", to success as "The President of the Royal Academy". And there are plenty of gorgeous color images to complement the text.
Christopher Wood's elegant and informative book features a comprehensive "who's who" of Victorian artists, from Pre-Raphaelite masters to the Olympian Dreamers. Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates Victorian art.