Frick to Hang ‘Flaming June,’ Victorian-Era Masterpiece, on Loan From Puerto Rico

Flaming June, 1895, by Frederic Lord Leighton. (Courtesy: The Frick)

Flaming June, 1895, by Frederic Lord Leighton. (Photo: The Frick)

The Frick Collection will put Frederic Lord Leighton’s Flaming June, considered by some to be the artist’s masterpiece, on view this summer. It is the first time the painting will be shown in New York. The vivid, almost neon, 47-inch square oil on canvas is thought to deal with issues of sleep, death and sensuality.

The piece is on loan from Puerto Rican museum Museo de Arte de Ponce.

Leighton, who studied in Rome and Florence but went on to serve as president of Britain’s Royal Academy, was an influential figure in Victorian art and, indeed, his work was collected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Shortly before his death he was elevated to the peerage, the only British visual artist ever to receive the honor.

According to the Frick, “this nineteenth-century masterpiece embodies the modern philosophy of ‘art for art’s sake,’ the belief that the value of art lies in its aesthetic qualities rather than in its subject matter.” Senior curator Susan Grace Galassi is organizing the show.

A half-century ago, the painting reportedly failed to sell at auction, allowing a politician who was later to become the governor of Puerto Rico to buy it for about $1,000.

The work generated controversy when it was on loan to Tate Britain about a decade ago, which some critics decrying it as kitsch (it is commonly reproduced on posters) and others praising its skill, sensuality and brilliant use of color.

Viewers can decide for themselves at the Frick summer exhibition which runs from June 9 to September 6, 2015. A preparatory sketch for the work will also be on view.