Art Lovers Celebrate as ‘Flaming June’ Arrives in London

The painting is on view at the Royal Academy until 2025.

Frederic Leighton, Flaming June (1895). Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

Sir Frederic Leighton’s iconic painting Flaming June (1895) back at the Royal Academy, on loan from the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico. First exhibited at the RA almost 128 years ago at the height of Leighton’s popularity, the painting enjoyed great success with Victorian audiences and critics, and is today considered one of the artist’s best-known and most reproduced works.

Flaming June portrays a sleeping woman, curled up beneath an awning and draped in a translucent orange Grecian dress, the circular shape taken by her body thought to symbolize the sun. In the background, the setting sun lights up the still surface of the sea, while a blooming Oleander flower suggests the scene is set in the early summer. The relative lack of iconographic detail or narrative, and the artist’s focus on color and form has led critics to associate the painting with Aestheticism. Painted a year before the artist’s death, Flaming June was well-received by its contemporaries, but the painting’s fortunes would soon change.

Shortly after the painting was made, it disappeared for decades, until it was by chance rediscovered in the 1960s, found boxed in over a chimney in a home in Battersea, England. In all that time, Victorian art had fallen out of fashion, and no one seemed to want to buy it.

The canvas was eventually bought for Museo de Arte de Ponce by its founder, Puerto Rican politician, industrialist, and patron of the arts Luis A. Ferré in 1963. Ferré bought the painting against the opinion of his advisors, and for a mere £2,000. The meager price demonstrated the changing feeling towards academic figurative painting at a time when Impressionism, post-Impressionism and abstraction reigned supreme in the museums and the art market. As tastes changed and interest in art of the Victorian era returned, Flaming June regained its status as one of the best-loved works of this period in British art. In recent years, Flaming June has been loaned to a number of museums while Museo de Arte de Ponce reconstructs its exhibition spaces damaged in the catastrophic 2020 earthquakes in Puerto Rico.

Flaming June will be on view at the Royal Academy from February 17th 2024 until January 12th 2025, having previously been loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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