Tuesday, 26 June 2012


John William Waterhouse - Dolce Far Niente

I love iconic images and over the years have amassed a collection of those that continue to inspire me as if seeing them again for the very first time. They are old friends.

I have always appreciated literature, art and fashion.  The Pre-Raphaelites enchant me because the way they painted brought together these three in a wonderfully unique way. And the carved and gilt frames they created to hold their pieces have a magic all their own.

The dresses and interiors have equal billing with the ladies who pose languidly often looking as if they had been captured unawares. Even though history informs us that they posed for hours and long days on end. You can feel the softness of the silk on their skin, and smell the scent of the roses and the incense in the air.

I don't have an absolute favourite image either painted or photographed. I like to divide them into seasons and cherish them throughout the year.

A Midsummer Night's Dream was my favourite Shakespeare before the melancholy of other works overtook it. I still have a little print of Bottom by Arthur Rackham which I love and turn to every summer.

A Midsummer Nights Dream by Arthur Rackham

And who could resist Rackham's Titania? Delicate and haughty in turn.

Antique print of Titania circa 1860

But of all the images of June the one that I have loved best is Flaming June painted by Frederic, Lord Leighton in 1895.

Flaming June in it's fabulous original frame
You can see the painting here in his studio in Holland Park.  Photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895.

You either love it or hate it.  I got to see it in 2008 when it was displayed at The Tate in London. Although orange is not a colour I often wear and only use sparingly in my home I do like the energy surge which orange conveys and the immediate hit it gives your senses. The power of orange belongs more to sunrise, sunset and summer, and I am a twilight, midnight and winter person. This orange is almost overwhelming, but not quite. It is not an Autumn orange which is rust.  It's warmth envelops you, a sleepy summer idyll that brings back holidays abroad. Those we took and those we meant to take. It seems to say that the orange of it, glowing as it does, is her, the Goddess of June. The frame adds to the golden aura.

I like the idea that he never confirmed who sat for it and so it is left to our imagination to decide if there was a real live muse or if he was channelling an Olympian Goddess.   It adds a poignant note to this that although he painted so many Goddesses he never fund his own and died unmarried living all alone in his fabulous house in Kensington.

This work which Lord Leighton produced almost by accident has received a mixed reception throughout history. It failed to attract a bidder when it came up for sale in the 60s and probably had it's most popular period in the days of the Athena poster which adorned many student walls.  It even has it's own Wiki page where you can read more about it.

"Flaming June is a painting by Sir Frederic Leighton, produced in 1895. Painted with oil paints on a 47" x 47" square canvas, it is widely considered to be Leighton's magnus opus,  showing his classicist nature. It is thought that the woman portrayed alludes to the figures of sleeping nymphs and naids the Greeks often sculpted. The (toxic) Oleander branch in the top right, symbolises the fragile link between sleep and death.

Dorothy Dene, the actress, and Mary Lloyd, who was depicted in paintings by various Pre-Raphaelite artists, have been variously credited with modelling for the work.

Flaming June was auctioned in the 1960s, during a period of time known to be difficult for selling Victorian era paintings, where it failed to sell for its low reserve price of $140 (the equivalent of $840 in contemporary prices). Afterward, it was promptly purchased by the Ponce Museum of Art in Puerto Rico where it currently resides."

I was thrilled to see that it had survived and remained a part of modern culture when I caught a glimpse of it in an unexpected place - included on Paul Weller's Stanley Road album. It's behind him on the blue wall where he sits upon a bed. I wondered if her beauty and warmth had touched the Mod Father as much as she had others in her long life. 

Flaming June behind Paul Weller on Stanley Road

And as I am more a twilight-midnight person I quite like this painting by Diane Sellers which is an interesting take on Flaming June.
Midsummer Nights Dream by Diane Sellers

Tom Lubbock argues the defense for Flaming June in The Independant


  1. Flaming June is wonderful - sensual, utterly romantic, just wonderful!! What's not to like!?!? :-) Take care

  2. Lovely paintings and I really lika a midsummer nights dream. Have a nice evening.


  3. Haunting pictures...
    Flaming june is soo wonderful!
    I do wish it was though...
    As it is more like autumn here..
    Wishing you a week full of kindness..
    Maria x

  4. Flaming June is a beautiful painting! I love the Pre-Raphaelites and have a lovely book I enjoy paging through every now and then. Thank you for sharing with us. Have a lovely week. Sharon

  5. i saw flaming June at a Lord Leighton exhibition too...it is amazing in real life....x

    1. I just so wish we could get some of it, know that the weather is causing sorrow and havoc the world over.

  6. I didn't know the painting Flaming June - it's beautiful. I don't wear orange or like to live with it, but I prefer Flaming June to Midsummer Dream, although the latter features my favourite colour.

    1. I know what you mean, orange is not for everyone but it can be enveloping and inspiring. Although I do not live with it I like to see interiors which have successfully used it. Perhaps the English light is not so good with it. It is at home in warmer climes.

  7. I have a small reproduction of Flaming June! I'm not usually an orange person either, but I do like the picture very much.

    I just wandered over here after wandering through some fairy tale sites. You have great images posted here--inspiring for my own work! Shall be back.

  8. Thank you for stopping by. I love the title of your blog!


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