Today I want to show you a Edmund Blair Leighton study I’ve done.

Edmund Blair Leighton (1852-1922) was an english victorian romanticist painter best known for his medieval and regency subjects. His art is associated with the pre-Raphaelite movement even if he has never been part of the brotherhood.

Personally I love E.B. Leighton paintings, in particularly the narrative behind those. Thanks to details, gestures and composition you can literally read the story in it.

The painting I studied is “God Speed”, made in 1900. This is the first painting of a series dedicated to chivalry.

We see a lady with a bright yellow-ish long dress tying a sash around a knight’s arms, a custom of the medieval tradition, as a wish that man would soon return to his beloved safe. He is probably leaving for a was as we see others knight before him with spears and banners. The dramatic moment is captured by Leighton in a terrific way.

I began to study this picture from the composition.

Composition in this painting is really simple but yet effective. There are several lines leading to the focus (image A) like the lady’s dress, the cape or the architecture of the gate. All these lines converging to the point of interest of a picture are called by James Gurney “spokewheeling” . This is a way to make composition stronger and to say to viewer’s eye “ehy! You must look there!”.

Also there is an interesting triangle between the 3 subjects: the lady’s face, the knight’s face and the sash.

Triangles in a composition are really important because they makes pictures more dynamics and add a sense of visual unity.

The dark part of the gate is framing the focus to be sure will be read clearly (image B). To see better how Leighton made the focus point clear I reduced the image only to three values (image C). The shapes and the main characters of this picture are really clear even without the complexity of the full range of values or the colors. I think Leighton did a magnificent work on this one.

Colors, like composition, are so simple yet so effective. I picked all the main colors from the image and I put them on the “Yurmby” wheel to find the gamut. As we can see in the posted image the colors goes from red to a little part of yellow. This really warm color schemes is a wonderful example of applied color theory. Leighton also desaturated the colors to achieve the cool tones.

I find all this study really interesting. Having a limited range of colors is really important for achieving a solid painting with a defined atmosphere.

After all this thinking over the picture I tried to do a practice study of Leighton’s work. My focus was to reach the atmosphere and the color scheme he used, leaving out the precision. I don’t want to make the exact copy of the painting, this isn’t what I’m looking for in my studies. Instead I’m trying to understand why he made those color and composition choices. This was really useful and I learned a lot making this type of work over his picture.

Hope you find that interesting as well.

So, do you like this Leighton’s painting? Do you think I missed something else in this study? Let me know!

See you in the next post, have a great adventure!

Nico Rigobello

2 replies
  1. Maria Schneider
    Maria Schneider says:

    Not an artist (I’m a writer) but because I self-publish, I most often do my own covers using stock art. I mostly enjoy LOOKING at art and seeing the story in it, rather than working on it myself. The critique you provided on this artwork is very interesting and detailed. A lot of lessons I don’t consciously take into account. Color, in particular, especially when adding titles and author name give me trouble. And then there is choosing the dreaded font. 🙂 Anyway, nice to meet you through the blog.


    • nicolo
      nicolo says:

      Hi Maria! Glad you liked this article. The narrative behind an image always fascinate me too. When an illustration show me hints like in this painting that create a story in my mind I think it’s the most satisfying thing about art. Hope to see you in next articles.


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