In the painting Idyll, artist Frederic Leighton has created a serene and enchanting image of lyrical beauty. The title and subject of the work were both inspired by the Idylls of Theocritus, and indeed, the bucolic setting of this painting recalls the simple splendor of a Golden Age.
The composition of Lord Leighton's Idyll is elegantly straightforward - two female figures recline under a tree branch on the right side of the work, while a single male figure sits on the left. The male has his back turned to the viewer, but even from this position we can see that he plays an instrument. This figure, who appears in the garb of a shepherd, seems to have enchanted his two female companions with his music, for the women rest languidly against a tree, seemingly in a trance.
It is easy to see why some art historians have identified the pair of females as nymphs or dryads. The diaphanous draperies resemble the garments worn by women in ancient Greek art, and with their flawlessly beautiful features, these creatures are idealized images inspired by Classical art and mythology. However, it is interesting to note that there were some significant Nineteenth century influences in this painting as well. Stephen Jones has pointed out that face of one of the nymphs was modeled by the legendary Lillie Langtry.
With its calm, horizontal emphasis, glorious landscape background, fashionable Classical allusions, and exquisite figures, the painting Idyll demonstrates once again why Lord Leighton is viewed as one of the most successful and respected artists of the Victorian era.
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.