The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Frederick Richards Leyland, 1832-1892

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1832
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1892.01.04
Place of Death:


Frederick Richards Leyland, ship-owner and art collector, married Frances Dawson (1834-1910) in 1855 but they separated in 1879. Their children were Frederick Dawson (b. 1856), Fanny (b. 1857), Florence (b. 1859) and Elinor (1861-1952).


A Liverpool shipowner and patron of artists including JW, Leyland served as an apprentice in the firm of John Bibby, Sons & Co., where he rose to become a partner. He founded the Leyland shipping line in 1873. The first commissions by the 'Liverpool Medici', to Rossetti and JW date from 1864 and 1867. He collected Renaissance art, as well as that of the Pre-Raphaelites, JW and Albert Moore.

In 1867 he took on the tenancy of Speke Hall, Liverpool and in 1869 bought a house in London at 49 Princes Gate. He was an able pianist and a man of considerable taste and talent. He entertained lavishly and JW visited him frequently at Speke Hall, but he was apparently not easy to get on with. JW painted his portrait (Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 97)) there in August 1870, 'my own martyrdom', he called it (Leyland to JW, #02565). The completed portrait was exhibited in 1874, at JW's one-man exhibition, which Leyland is said to have financed.

Leyland commissioned portraits of all his family (Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106) et seq., to The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland (YMSM 111)), and many lovely drawings also resulted. Other paintings for Leyland include 'The Six Projects' (Venus (YMSM 82) et seq.) and The Three Girls (YMSM 88). The decorations he painted for Leyland's London house (Panels from the Entrance Hall at 49 Princes Gate (YMSM 175), Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178)) caused the quarrel in 1876-7 which ended their relationship. Leyland felt that JW had exceeded his commission and refused to pay the 2000 guineas JW demanded. JW later drew and painted several caricatures of Leyland (The Gold Scab (YMSM 208), The Loves of the Lobsters (YMSM 209), Portrait of Captain Williams (YMSM 10)), as he felt that Leyland was the chief cause of his bankruptcy in 1878 and was vitriolic in his criticism.


Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998.