Pre-Raphaelite art fans around the world are awaiting news from Puerto Rico on the fate of Flaming June. Did the ubiquitous painting survive Hurricane Maria?
The images coming from Puerto Rico are horrific. Roofs are blown off of buildings, people are wandering through knee-deep water, and communications are predicted to be out for months. Food and water are running out and there is a great deal of humanitarian help.
Meanwhile, art fans want to know the fate of the huge collection of spectacular art at the Museo de Arte de Ponce, in the southern Puerto Rico city of Ponce. The museum, freshly remodeled after surviving hurricane damage, had just opened a huge exhibit of art by the Victorian painter Lord Leighton in August. What are the fates of Flaming June and the other paintings?
The Inquisitr was able to reach Daniel Robbins, Senior Curator at Leighton House Museum, in Holland Park, London. He was asked whether the paintings on loan from the museum, as well as Flaming June, survived the hurricanes. His reply will give all art lovers a huge sigh of relief.
“I can confirm that 18 works from Leighton House are on loan to the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico. I am pleased to say that the museum, staff and the paintings were unharmed by the two hurricanes that have passed over the island.”
Flaming June was not the only painting that art connoisseurs worried about. The museum holds a spectacular collection of paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, including his grand final painting, The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon.
Considered the “Mona Lisa of the Southern Hemisphere,” Flaming June has been transposed onto t-shirts, tote bags, mugs and posters, is a favorite tattoo design, and the stunning image and vivid orange have been replicated in modern photographs, like the 2013 cover of Vogue magazine featuring actress Jessica Chastain.
Although many admirers don’t know of the artist who painted Flaming June, they know the image well.
Flaming June was painted by British painter Lord Frederic Leighton in 1895. The model in his final work of art is believed to be actress Dorothy Dene. According to The Guardian, like Pygmalion or the musical My Fair Lady, Leighton paid for her elocution lessons. It is not clear if she had to continuously repeat, “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”
According to Vanity Fair, Dene, who was born Ada Alice Pullan, posed for Leighton for nearly 15 years, and many assumed the two would marry. That was not to be, as he died from the heart condition angina pectoris not long after Flaming June was finished. Yet, he did include her in his will.
By 1930, Victorian art was well out of fashion, and the the painting was in the hands of a private collector until it appeared in an art gallery in 1962. A young Andrew Lloyd Webber had seen it, instantly fell in love with it, and asked his grandmother for the £50 to purchase the stunning piece. His grandmother refused, stating “I will not have that Victorian junk in my flat.” Now, the famed composer owns an astounding collection of Pre-Raphaelite works worth millions of dollars, but he clearly remembers the one that got away.
A year later, Don Luis Ferré, founder of the Museo de Arte de Ponce was in Europe purchasing art for the new museum. He purchased it for £2,000 and now, Flaming June is part of one of the largest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art outside of Great Britain. He eventually became governor of Puerto Rico a few years after his art hunting trip.
Flaming June did return to England less than a year ago for a special homecoming at Leighton House, the studio and home where Lord Leighton painted his masterpiece.
Squared-up drawings were made in readiness to transfer the design to the canvas square by square. The fact that Leighton made two versions for Flaming June (one measuring six-by-six squares and the second eight-by-eight) suggests that he had not resolved the size of the canvas until a late stage in his preparations. Both drawings are currently on display in the Silk Room as part of Flaming June: The Making of an Icon (until 2 April) #flamingjune #palaceofart #victorian #drawing #fredericleighton
The return of Flaming June was such a huge deal that prior to the exhibit, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page visited Flaming June to see the painting in person.
A longtime collector of Pre-Raphaelite art, Page’s own Holland Park home, Tower House, designed by the extraordinary Arts and Crafts architect William Burges, is right around the corner from the Leighton House Museum.
According to the Evening Standard, Page was heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites as a youth.
“To be able to see it close up and really appreciate what it is and see it in Leighton House, where it was painted, well it’s quite a day.”
Page once considered a career in painting, yet what he wanted to do in art was inspired by the Victorian Pre-Raphaelites. This was not exactly in vogue during the swinging 60s when pop art icons like Andy Warhol, Peter Max, and Roy Lichtenstein ruled.
“I connected with Pre-Raphaelite art in my early teens when I realized that there was a movement and a brotherhood. I was at art college for a period of time… but oil painting, things that I wanted to do, were avoided so I admired the techniques of the Pre-Raphaelites from afar.”
The last message by the Museo de Arte de Ponce before Hurricane Maria hit landfall was that they would be closed for a couple of days because of the hurricane.
Thankfully, the staff, as well as the priceless Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian paintings including Flaming June, are safe.
Are you a fan of Flaming June? Do you have any replicas of the “Mona Lisa of the Southern Hemisphere?”
[Featured Image by Frederic Leighton, First Baron Leighton/Wikimedia Commons Public Domain]