Frederic Leighton, Elijah in the Wilderness, 1878 Oil on canvas, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England.
Here Leighton depicts a scene from 1 Kgs 19 when Elijah, exhausted, flees to the desert. He lies down in despair, and an angel comes to revive him with food and drink. Earlier in the 19th century, many British artists believed that their role was to illustrate a moral lesson, and they chose subjects that audiences would understand as morality tales. But by the 1870s, Britain faced war, industrialization, and economic depression. Leighton and others responded by creating works of glorious beauty, focusing on noble deeds, as a distraction from unpleasant realities. In this piece, Leighton uses a well-known biblical story to illustrate, rather than distract from, the social mood.