Frederick Leighton was, like Alma-Tadema, one of the leading exponents of a rather bloodless Greek classicism in the 19th century.
He was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire in 1830, the son of a doctor. He began his studies at fourteen, in Florence, in 1844, and continued in Frankfurt, Brussels and Paris until 1849.
Leighton originally painted historical and mythological subjects. He soon abandoned this route and, in changing his style, discovered his true forte in neo-classicism. Soon he became the leader of the Victorian neo-classical artists. He was influenced by the the Nazarenes, settled in Rome in 1852, where he was a friend of Nino Costa, and painted the large Cimabue's Madonna Borne in Procession, which was exhibited in the RA of 1855 and bought by Queen Victoria (still in the Royal Coll.).
During the 1860s, when he was turning away from mediaeval and biblical subjects towards classical themes, Leighton's reputation burgeoned, and today it is for these Hellenic subjects that he is famous. He settled in London in 1860, became friendly with Watts, and became ARA in 1864, RA 1868 and PRA ten years later.
When commencing a classical work, Leighton made preliminary studies of each figure, both nude and draped. Such is his stature that even these sketches are now extremely valuable. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1855 to 1896, at the Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street, at the Old Water-colour Society and at the Grosvenor Gallery in Bond Street.
Leighton's position as a veritable pillar of the Victorian art world was rewarded by a knighthood in 1878, a baronetcy in 1886 and just before his death a peerage in 1896. Indeed, so great a figure was he that he is still the only English artist to have been accorded this honour.
His extraordinary 'Moorish' house in Kensington, London, is a museum with works by him and his contemporaries. There are examples in London (NPG, Tate, V&A), many British galleries, and Boston, New York (Met. Mus.) and Yale (CBA).