Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Clare Leighton (1898-1989)   BIOGRAPHY

 PRIVATE COLLECTION
 
Marble Quarrying, 1949-50
Framed (ref: 5355)
The original woodblock carved by the artist for the wood engraving published 1949-1950, Boston Public Library no. 604
9 1/2 in. in diameter

 


Provenance: David Leighton, the artist's nephew


In the late 1940's Wedgwood commissioned Leighton to produce a series of 12 wood engravings. to represent the traditional industries for which New England was famous, including Whaling (Massachusetts, especially Nantucket), Marble Quarrying (a Vermont specialty), Lobstering (associated with Maine), Tobacco Growing (Connecticut), Maple Sugaring (Vermont and New Hampshire), Cranberrying (Massachusetts), as well as a variety of  traditional activities found in all New England States, and many other northern or coastal States, including Ship Building, Logging, Farming, Cod Fishing, Grist Milling and Ice Cutting.  The original twelve wood engravings themselves were produced in a limited edition of 50 sets, individually numbered and signed by the artist.  Wedgwood then adapted these engravings and transfer printed them onto 10.5 inch dinner plates.

The work took her all over the Northeast, and upon its completion she decided to move to Massachusetts (she would later settle in Woodbury, Connecticut). Although she broke new ground in designing the Wedgwood plates, she finished the project feeling both triumphant and exhausted. In the unpublished notes towards an autobiography she made in old age, she recollected: "Once I had finished the Wedgwoods, I realised I needed to forget wood engraving. It is no wonder that after so many years, I found myself growing exhausted by it. I felt I was running the risk of repeating myself and ceasing to grow." She saw the Wedgwood plates as one of her most ambitious projects, perhaps even the culmination of her career.

A collection of original artwork and manuscript material by Leighton for the series is in the collection of The Yale Centre for British Art, including Leighton's preliminary studies, compositional studies, wood-engraved states, and final prints:
http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/2038711



Clare Leighton (1898-1989)

Clare Hope Leighton (1898 - 1989) was an English/American artist, writer and illustrator, best known for her wood engravings.

Clare Leighton was born in London on 12 April 1898[1], the daughter of
Robert Leighton (1858-1934) and Marie Connor Leighton (1865-1941),
both authors. Her early efforts at painting were encouraged by her parents and her uncle Jack Leighton, an artist and illustrator. In 1915, she began formal studies at the Brighton College of Art and later trained at the Slade School of Fine Art (1921-23), and the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where she studied wood engraving under Noel Rooke.

During the late 1920s and 1930s, Leighton visited the United States on
a number of lecture tours. In 1939, at the conclusion of a lengthy relationship with the radical journalist Henry Brailsford, she emigrated to the US and became a naturalised citizen in 1945.

Over the course of a long and prolific career, she wrote and illustrated numerous books praising the virtues of the countryside and the people who worked the land. During the 1920s and 1930s, as the world around her became increasingly technological, industrial, and urban, Leighton portrayed rural working men and women. In the 1950s she created designs for Steuben Glass, Wedgwood plates, several stained glass windows for churches in New England and for the windows of Worcester Cathedral, Massachussetts (USA).

Leighton had two brothers, Roland and Evelyn. The older brother Roland
Leighton, immortalised in Vera Brittain's memoir, Testament of Youth,
was killed in action, December 1915. Evelyn became a captain in the Royal Navy and died in 1969.

The best known of her books are The Farmer's Year (1933; a calendar of
English husbandry), Four Hedges - A Gardener's Chronicle (1935; the
development of a garden from a meadow she had bought in the Chilterns)
and Tempestuous Petticoat; The story of an invincible Edwardian (1948;
describing her childhood and her bohemian mother). Autobiographical
text and illustrations are available in "Clare Leighton: the growth and shaping of an artist-writer", published 2009.

See all works by Clare Leighton