I realised that most of my inspiration comes from contemporary art and illustration so I decided to visit Manchester Art Gallery to see if I could get some more traditional and classical influences. I looked at a lot of Pre-Raphaelite paintings but found myself most excited by the works of Frederick Lord Leighton. Although not part of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, Leighton associated with many of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, and his paintings had a similar classical aesthetic. The painting that struck me most was Captive Andromach (pictured). This painting shows a scene of women collecting water and is painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style. It is a very traditional scene and the stylised clouds and trees are similar to those of other painters such as James Collinson and William Holman hunt. The first thing that made Leighton stand out for me was his incredible ability to paint fabric. The dresses of women and draped cloths are represented so beautifully and he works so delicately and precisely that his paintings are mind blowing to see in real life. His work also seems a lot more poetic and lifelike than other artists at the time. His portraits have a mood about them that makes them seem that little bit more alive than other portraits but in a beautiful way rather than being eerie or disturbing.
Seeing this work has influenced me to seriously consider the use of fine detail in my work as small details can make something look incredibly beautiful. I always seem to lack a certain beauty in my work and I feel that Leighton has inspired me and shown me how to capture this.
Another thing that struck me about Leighton's work is the way he paints his figures. It is not the actual faces or expressions that I was interested in, but the poses. Every figure in every painting looks relaxed and natural. Many artists paint people in stiff and unrealistic poses but Leighton's figures always look so organic and peaceful, giving his paintings a calmness and in turn making them easy and pleasant to view.