Edmund Blair Leighton was a painter of historical genre paintings, mainly of medieval times, but also regency. Rather like Waterhouse, and Herbert Draper, Leighton the man has virtually disappeared. The reasons for the continuing popularity of the Blair Leighton paintings are not difficult to understand, as they are similar to those in his lifetime, namely nostalgia for an elegant chivalrous past. Leighton was also a fastidious craftsman, producing highly- finished, beautifully painted, decorative paintings. It would appear that Blair Leighton left no diaries, and I have been unable to locate any mention of him in biographies, and though he exhibited at the Royal Academy for over forty years, he was never an Academician or an Associate.
Edmund Blair Leighton was born on the 21st September 1853, the son of the artist Charles Blair Leighton. He was educated at University College School, before becoming a student at the Royal Academy Schools. Leighton married Katherine Nash in 1885; they had a son and daughter. Blair Leighton exhibited annually at the RA from 1878 to 1920. Leighton was, as might be expected from his historic genre paintings a collector of old musical instruments, art, and furniture. Leighton lived at 14 Priory Road, Bedford Park, London, and died on the 1st September 1922.
The death of Mr Edward Blair Leighton, on September 1st, removed from our midst a painter who, though he did not attain to the higher flights of art, yet played a distinguished part in aiding the public mind to an appreciation of the romance attaching to antiquity, and to a realisation of the fellowship of mankind throughout the ages.
Mr. Blair Leighton , his father being that Charles Blair Leighton, portrait and subject painter, whose exhibits at the Royal Academy and other London galleries covered the period between 1843 and 1855. The son was educated at University College School, before taking a position in an office in the city, but entered the Royal Academy Schools after a course of evening study at South Kensington and Heatherley’s.
Leighton commenced exhibiting in 1874, and succeeded, four years later, in securing the verdict of the Hanging Committee of the Royal Academy in favour of two paintings, entitled respectively ‘Witness My Act and Seal,’ and “A Flaw in the Title.” Since then his highly wrought style was regularly represented at Burlington House until two years prior to his decease. Among the better known of his paintings, many of which were published, may be named ‘The Dying Copernicus (1880), To Arms (1888), Lay thy sweet hand in mine and trust in me ( 1891), Lady Godiva (1892), Two Strings (1893), Launched in Life (1894), The Accolade (1901), Tristran and Isolde (1907), The Dedication (1908), The Shadow (1909), “To the Unknown Land (1911),” and “The Boyhood of Alfred The Great,” 1913.
For the past dozen years or so, Mr E Blair Leighton had been a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Leighton had married in 1885, Miss Katherine Nash, by whom he had, with a daughter, one son, Mr E J Blair Leighton, who has also adopted painting as a profession.