Atelier · October 6, 2006

Friday in the atelier: “Nausicaa” by Lord Fredrick Leighton

Today’s painting is “Nausicaa” c.1878 by classical Painter Lord Frederick Leighton. (1830-1896)

Leighton was an accomplished Victorian artist and writer. He was a member and then president of the Royal Academy of Art and was the first artist to be ennobled.

Leighton came from wealth and his early life spent in Italy and Germany earned him a refinement beyond his years. This sophistication influenced his work greatly.

The one Leighton painting that everyone seems to know about is titled “Flaming June” which is also one of my favorite paintings. “Flaming June”, along with most of Leighton’s works, were spurned by so called “modern” critics during the mid twentieth century.

“Nausicaa”, from ancient Greek literature, appeared in the Odyssey as the maiden who found Odysseus shipwrecked on the shore of Scheria. Odysseus said that “Nausicaa” resembled a goddess, and she seemed to be falling in love with the hero, but nothing ever came of it.

In this painting Leighton portrays “Nausicaa” in clothing as seen from Greek statues, while not showing partial nudity that was common with ancient Greek dress. In doing this he ensured that “Nausicaa” complied with Victorian mores, while also attempting to evoke innocence and sexuality.

When I see “Nausicaa” I feel like I’m looking at a newly married young woman eagerly waiting for the return of her husband, I don’t see her as a young girl – instead I see her as someone who is capable. Perhaps she’s waiting for her boyfriend, but she’s doing so on her own; without the need of her parents.

And while she waits, she is introspective about the feelings that her new life suggests.