Frederick Leighton was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire in 1830, the son of a doctor. Leighton originally painted historical and mythological subjects. He soon abandoned this route and, in changing his style, discovered his true forte in neo-classicism. Soon he became the leader of the Victorian neo-classical artists, and he travelled abroad to study under various teachers in Florence and Rome.
During the 1860s, when he was turning away from mediaeval and biblical subjects towards classical themes, Leighton's reputation burgeoned, and today it is for these Hellenic subjects that he is famous. In 1885, his first picture for the Royal Academy was bought personally by Queen Victoria and thus his long and successful career was launched.
When commencing a classical work, Leighton made preliminary studies of each figure, both nude and draped. Such is his stature that even these sketches are now extremely valuable. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1855 to 1896, at the Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street, at the Old Water-colour Society and at the Grosvenor Gallery in Bond Street. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1864, a Member of the Royal Academy in 1868 and became President in 1878.
Leighton's position as a veritable pillar of the Victorian art world was rewarded by a knighthood in 1878, a baronetcy in 1886 and a peerage in 1896. Indeed, so great a figure was he that he is still the only English artist to have been accorded this honour.