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Edmund Blair Leighton (British painter) 1852 - 1922

Edmund Blair Leighton was an English painter of historical genre scenes, specializing in Regency and medieval subjects. Although his name is not commonly known, Edmund Blair Leighton's most famous works are among the most widely recognized paintings of the period. His works of Godspeed (1900) and the Accolade (1901), can be seen in almost every poster shop around the world and are used as the epitome of medieval iconography. If one looks at the visual elements in Godspeed for example, it becomes evident that very few paintings encapsulate with such a strong a sense, the sensibilities of this genre. The beautiful maiden on the steps of a stone castle, the knight in shining armor, the white steed, and the sense of immediate peril which threatens the subjects contentment almost define our modern day conception of Medieval legend and romantic sentiment. E Blair Leighton was born September 21st, 1852, not 1853 which has been repeatedly misprinted throughout his life and after. He was the son of a promising young artist, Charles Blair Leighton and the former Caroline Boosey, who came from a long line of music publishers. His father died in 1855 leaving little Edmund age three, his older sister Fanny age 5, and his little sister Nellie still in the womb. His mother moved to Bedford park and opened a school for girls, which was successful enough that she was able to support her family. However, believing it was an unsuitable environment for a growing boy, Edmund was sent off to a boarding school in St. Johns Woods where he reported to be poorly fed and extremely unhappy. At age 12 he attended the career oriented University Collage School where he completed his studies at age 15. Although EBL enjoyed drawing from a young age, he was not able to pursue it as a career right away. Being an artist only pays well if one becomes well known for it and in life there are no guarantees. After some time working in the Tea Business he was however able to save enough money to pursue his artistic training. He started taking night classes at the South Kensington School of Art, and later, had some instruction at the Heatherley's School of Art before gaining entry to the five year program at the Royal Academy of Art School in 1874. The RA was the premier art institute of the country and students were able to meet and study from the leading academicians of that time. Blair Leighton Exhibited regularly at the RA from 1878 -1920. Early in his carrier to earn some extra money, Leighton made illustrations for the noted publisher Cassell & Co., as well as such magazines as Harper's Bazaar. In 1878 he became a member of the Langham Sketch Club and was given the honor of serving as its president in 1880. In 1885 he married Katherine Nash, with whom he had two children, Eric James Blair Leighton, who also attended the Royal Academy School of Art, and Sophie Blair Leighton, who married the famous British civil engineer Sir Harold John Boyer Harding. Although Edmund Blair Leighton was elected to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1887, he was never voted in as an associate of the Royal Academy. His career hit its peak in and around 1900 with his most famous works of Godspeed being painted in 1900, The Accolade, 1901, The End of the Song, 1902, Alian Chartier, 1903, and Vox Populi, 1904. He continued to paint other great masterpieces for many years, with less and less large scale works as he neared the end of his life. He died on September 1st 1922. 

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