Edmund Blair Leighton (1852-1922)

Just as music is said to be food to the soul, art has its own effect on people. To many, art is soothing while at the same time, maintaining an interesting visual appeal. One artist by the name Edmund Blair Leighton was a guru in this field.

Edmund Blair Leighton was an artist with an eye for perfection. His exquisite painting were, to say the very least, priceless. Putting his heart and soul into his passion, Edmund developed a unique preference to romance themed paintings with a medieval and regency setting. His paintings appeared mild and smooth with a deep meaning that only a true art lover would be able to understand.

History and background

E. B. Leighton was the only son to the famous portrait artist, Charles Blair Leighton. Contrary to what many believe, Edmund was born in the year 1852 and not 1853 as written in many of the article that talk about him. More precisely, he was born on the 1st of September, 1852 in Clerkewell, London. Coming from a family of three children, Edmund was the second child.

At a tender age of three, Edmund lost his father. This led to his family moving away from Clerkewell to Bedford Park. He first schooled at St. John’s Wood which was a boarding school.

Although Edmund loved drawing and painting straight from his young age, he did not dive into the profession. Just as in today’s life, Edmund was pressurized by those around him to get what they referred to as a ‘stable job’. He gave in to the pressure and started working in a tea field. However, this was just a means to an end for him. He took advantage of the situation and decided to save up some money. Once the money was enough, Edmund enrolled himself in South Kensington School of Art for evening classes. This was just the beginning of his artistic career. He moved on to Heatherley’s School of art before finally gaining admission to Royal Academy of Art School in 1874. To support this admission, he took up another job as an illustrator for magazines and publishers.

Edmund grew in skill and passion which led him to join the Langham Sketch Club in 1878. During this year, he exhibited his work at the Royal Academy. Two years down the line, he served as the president of the club. In 1887, E. Blair was elected to be a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. However, he was not voted in and thus served neither as an associate nor an academician. After this, around the year 1900, Edmund’s painting career took off. He was then seen to paint some of the world’s most famous paintings. His medieval paintings attracted a lot of attention due to their ability to capture romance and still portray a sense of danger. He continued with his exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Art School until the year 1920.

It was a definite loss not only to the world of art, but to the entire world when the news of his passing became public. Edmund Blair Leighton passed away in September the 1st 1922.


From his fairly humble beginning, Edmund achieved quite a lot. He managed to leave behind a legacy which was and still is portrayed by his works. Many of us may not know the man, but his paintings are a sight to behold, appreciate and remember. Some of Edmund Blair Leighton’s masterpieces may include:

l The Dying Copernicus (1880)

l Lay thy sweet hand in mine and trust in me (891)

l God speed (1900)

l The Accolade (1901)

l The end of the Song (1902)

l Alian Chartier (1903)

l Vox Populi (1904)

l The Dedication (1908)


Although Edmund Blair Leighton is not a common name spoken by many, his works are not to be forgotten that easily. In the present time, Blair’s paintings have been the source of inspiration for many artists. His paintings have attracted the attention of some of the most renowned art collectors and experts alike. His works have brought a new understanding to romance through his simple yet perplexing and alluring paintings. Not much can be said about the man, but the story of his paintings is speechless. Although his name is not at the lips of the public, his painting are at the heart of other like-minded artist and art lovers. 

View Edmund Blair Leighton Gallery