Editor's note: The following essay was reprinted, without accompanying illustrations, in Resource Library on August 8, 2008 with permission of the Mint Museum of Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, or wish to obtain a copy of the exhibition catalogue from which it is excerpted, please contact the Mint Museum of Art, directly through either this phone number or web address:
Clare Leighton's Art and Craft: Exploring Her Rich Legacy through the Pratt Collection
by Caroline Mesrobian Hickman
Clare Leighton's central role in the revival of British wood engraving as a means of creative expression during the 1920s and her subsequent contributions to that art and craft over the next four decades make her work integral to the study and appreciation of printmaking in 20th century Europe and America. The British-born Leighton (1898-1989), who immigrated to the United States in 1939, created over 800 prints and illustrated more than 65 books, 14 of which she wrote, over her 50 year career. Heir to Thomas Bewick, the 18th century printmaker and naturalist who brought the technical possibilities of wood engraving to new heights, and the late 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement, which emphasized the importance of simplicity, handcraft and individual creativity, Leighton interpreted the visual world with powerful lines and rich tones of black and white. Her book illustrations set new standards for commercially published literature, while her own writings and illustrations on nature, agriculture and the seasons were instrumental in reviving interest in books on rural life. Credited as the first woman to author a book on the art and technique of wood engraving, Leighton popularized an art that she characterized as "the least to be taught and the most to be learnt" of all media. 
Leighton's technical skill and choice of subject matter account for much of her work's enduring relevance and appeal. The timing of her birth, her longevity, and a life divided between England and America meant that Leighton witnessed the defining events of the 20th century. An ardent pacifist -- her 19 year-old elder brother Roland and family friends were killed during the First World War -- and admirer of everyday people, Leighton frequently depicted rural men and women working in harmony with nature in a pre-industrialized state. The wholesome values associated with such imagery stood in stark contrast to the chaos and economic and social unrest created by the World Wars, the Great Depression, and the increased mechanization of agricultural practices. Leighton's contemporaries responded to a spiritual quality in her imagery that helped them find meaning in a war-torn world; her art reaffirmed man's true locus in the universe. 
Early Prints: Europe
Leighton grew up in a lively literary and artistic household in London, the only daughter of popular fiction writers Marie Connor and Robert Leighton. She attended the Brighton School of Art, studied painting at the Slade School with Sir Henry Tonks, and learned wood engraving and book illustration at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London under Noel Rooke, a founder of the wood engraving revival. She learned book design from Eric Gill, who purchased one of her first wood engravings, The Malthouse (plate 11), and arranged for one of the earliest exhibitions of her work.
Despite her youth and relative inexperience in printmaking, Leighton's efforts in this medium established her reputation as a talented contributor to Britain's wood engraving revival. Years junior to pioneering engravers Eric Gill, John and Paul Nash, and Gwen Raverat, Leighton quickly embraced the expressive potential of a medium that had been used primarily for reproductive purposes up to that point. Her early engravings were much admired by the writer Hilaire Belloc, who praised her creative power to achieve subtle expression by exactitude of line. Influential journalists and social thinkers G.K. Chesterton; J.C. Squire, editor of the widely circulated London Mercury; and H.N. Brailsford, editor of the socialist New Leader, published her wood engravings in their newspapers and wrote that her prints showed "performance at an age when promise was expected," as well as a vitality that captured the essential life of the common man (see plates 17-20). Leighton's images visually reinforced discussions on land distribution and agricultural reform in their publications, as well as the preservation of rural England, which was described in popular literature by authors such as Thomas Hardy. Leighton had a close personal relationship with Brailsford, whose tireless advocacy for the working classes greatly influenced her art.
The Malthouse, Barges, and The Calf Auction (plates 11-13) all depict everyday life in Bishop's Stortford, a village 30 miles northwest of London known for its malt industry and weekly livestock market, where the Leighton family lived during the early 1920s.  The Malthouse, one of Leighton's first prints, shows her prodigious technical skill in rendering tonal contrasts and textures and her interest in both design and detail. The distinctive architectural features of the malthouse, with its conical chimney, ventilation cowl and directional vane, are rendered from a low vantage point as bold abstract designs silhouetted against the cloudless sky. In Barges, workers load sacks of dry malt into horse-drawn carts and unload them onto barges across the quay for transport to London breweries, while in The Calf Auction, an auctioneer presides over the town's centuries-old cattle market.
Early Travels and Prints: Continental Europe and North America
Leighton enjoyed traveling from an early age. Some of her first experiences outside of Great Britain were sketching trips to France and the Balkans with her Uncle Jack during the 1920s. The studies in watercolor, pen and ink, and sepia wash produced during these trips show the young artist to be a keen observer of nature and a talented draftsman as well. Some of these studies were for practice and her personal enjoyment, while others became the basis for future wood engravings. In many of the prints inspired by these trips, Leighton chose not to focus on the picturesque qualities of the landscape, but instead to portray the human condition with truthfulness and empathy. In The Grape Harvest (plate 29), for example, the depiction of French peasant workers as classical figures gives them a monumental presence as they tend to their work with dignity, grace and purpose. Dawn on the Train to Mostar (plate 21), which shows weary travelers in a crowded rail car, prompted comparisons of Leighton's work with the novels of Thomas Hardy; both featured protagonists "emblematic of all humanity and its mysterious destiny." 
America, with its vast natural resources and youthful energy, fascinated Leighton, and in 1929 she began making periodic visits there to lecture and exhibit her work. She eschewed the noise and rush of big cities, and her rare portrayals of New York underscore her view of the city as the antithesis of the natural world. In Snow Shovellers (plate 36), faceless workers labor in the bitter cold. Bread Line (plate 49) is a biting commentary on the plight of the unemployed during the height of the Depression in which men stand in endless, repetitive rows, dehumanized and dwarfed by the massive skyscrapers. In contrast to the grim scenes of New York, Boston Cod (plate 37) captures one of New England's vital industries, with fishermen harvesting the Atlantic's bountiful cod fish. Leighton's rendering of form, light and shade are increasingly skillful, the figures are vivacious and rounded, and the scene is no longer confined by a black border.
The six scenes that comprise the "Canadian Lumber Camp" series were created after Leighton's week-long visit to a camp in the Laurentian Mountains early in 1931. Intended for exhibition and unhindered by the requirements of book illustration, these powerful engravings are characterized by their exquisite contrasts of black and white, which the artist has carefully orchestrated to portray the cycle of the timber harvest.
These striking images helped to secure Leighton's international reputation as a wood engraver of uncommon skill and vision. They are the largest engravings that she had created to date; monumental in both size and content. Each one features rugged French-Canadian lumberjacks who labor without the use of modern technology in the beauty of the frozen wilderness. Snow is everywhere, soft and amorphous, yet weighing heavily on branches. Cutting (plate 43), which depicts lumberjacks felling a massive tree, combines the abstract patterning of snow-covered hillocks with the meticulous details of the teeth of the crosscut saw and the nails in the heel of the lumberjack's boot. Logs are heaved onto sleighs from the skidways in Loading (plate 45) and then hauled to the frozen river. Leighton's use of repetition and patterning gives vitality to the panoramic Landing (plate 46), in which massive piles of logs are stacked on the ice as far as the eye can see, waiting for the spring thaw to float to the saw mill. Resting (plate 47) depicts weary lumberjacks warming themselves around a wood stove. The interplay of artificial light and shadow in the interior space of the cabin contrasts with Leighton's outdoor scenes in which natural, reflected light shines on the vast, white wilderness. Even as she was still striving to increase the white effect of snow on the wood blocks, Leighton wrote to her friend Hilaire Belloc that they were "by far the best things I've done...."
Book Illustration Commissions
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, leading publishing houses in London and New York commissioned Leighton to illustrate new editions of books by well-known British and American authors. To illustrate a memorial edition of The Return of the Native, Leighton took lengthy sketching tours through the Dorset countryside to immerse herself in Thomas Hardy's Wessex (see plates 34 and 35). The 60 engravings that she completed for the book illustrate the changing moods of Egdon Heath and its ill-fated inhabitants. Similarly, Leighton's engravings for Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights transcend narration and evoke the mood of the characters and their setting. The ominous evening sky and dark moor in The Frightened Shepherd Boy (plate 38) reflect the terror of the youth who has just seen Heathcliff's ghost. H.M. Tomlinson's The Sea and the Jungle, an account of his journey in 1909-10 on a tramp steamer up the Amazon, required Leighton to draw from the narrative and her imagination to depict the tropics rather than the familiar English countryside. In The Banana Grove (plate 42), one of Leighton's illustrations for the story, the artist's sinuous line visualizes the author's sensual description of the natives: "the women were full, lissom, and rounded, and they posed as if they were aware that this place was theirs." 
Horrified by the prospect of another world war and seeking refuge from an increasingly turbulent relationship with newspaper editor H.N. Brailsford, Leighton sailed to America in early 1939 to make a new life for herself and her art. After settling in America, she continued to receive commissions to illustrate editions by British authors as well as American writers, particularly those who wrote about the South. Prior to her departure, The Macmillan Company had contracted with her to illustrate a centennial edition of Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree. Although she initially intended to return to Dorset to work on the project, Leighton wrote the publisher from her rented room in Baltimore that the specter of a war-ridden English countryside compelled her instead to use her "nostalgia" to recreate Hardy's landscape. 
Leighton's illustrations convey the content and spirit of Hardy's novel about rural life in all its levity and melancholy: the eternal cycle of the seasons; the temporal nature of customs as they fall in the way of progress (for example, as the historic Mellstock Quire is displaced by a modern church organ); and the pretty schoolmistress Fancy Day's whirlwind courtships with peddler Dick Dewey, vicar Maybold, and farmer Shiner. In The Apple Tree (plate 83), Fancy and Dick's figures echo the curves of the fruit-laden trees and become integral parts of the natural world. The Lovers (plate 84) finds them in the midst of the harvest. The spray of wheat, bound like a bouquet at their feet, is an ancient symbol of marriage, fertility and the abundance of nature. Leighton's smaller chapter headings and tail pieces characterize the Mellstock landscape as creatively as her larger images depict its human inhabitants. The quaking branches of Fir Trees (plate 80), for example, capably capture the spirit of Hardy's anthropomorphic world: "To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock." 
Leighton's 24 illustrations for The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore were published in a seven-volume series by Duke University Press from 1952 to 1964. The commission came while she was a member of Duke's Art, Aesthetics and Music department from 1943 to 1945. Brown, a longtime English professor at the university and a founder of the North Carolina Folklore Society, left his life's work -- a vast collection of regional folklore -- unpublished when he died in 1943. Newman White, the project's first editor, believed that folklore, of all the branches of knowledge, was the best evidence of "the kinship of the human mind in all places and ages," and he hoped that the publication would transform the field of folklore from something perceived as "quaint and curious" into a body of beliefs, customs and art expressions "as vital as those by which we live."
Leighton's wood engravings portray the rural folk of North Carolina as they harvest, gather for social rites, and participate in recreational activities typical of their region. Appalachian mountain people join in communal events such as All Day Singing in the Mountains (plate 129), Piedmont tenant farmers prepare to dry their crop in Firing the Tobacco Barns (plate 133), while in Dragging Nets (plate 128), fishermen strain to pull in their harvest from the bracing waters of the Outer Banks. In her quest for accuracy, Leighton coordinated her sketching trips throughout the state with the harvesting of various crops, lived and worked with the agricultural people, and even located a still in the mountains for the engraving Moonshine Still (plate 135). The illustrations are not only a harvest of her creativity but also an accurate visual record of the customs and agricultural practices of a by-gone era.
Later in her life, Leighton illustrated several volumes of spiritual poems compiled by Helen Plotz, which show her reverence for Creation. In the Beginning (plate 139), engraved for Imagination's Other Place: Poems of Science and Mathematics, imagines the dawn of Creation as elemental light and water swirl into full being. Engravings for The Earth is the Lord's: Poems of the Spirit, an anthology of poems from various cultures, depict the gentle creatures of the earth and celebrate the elemental land, sea and sky (see plates 140-42). 
Illustrations for Her Own Books
In addition to her many commissions to illustrate the literature of others, Leighton wrote and illustrated more than a dozen of her own books in which word and image were created at one time and by one mind. Her volumes on English country life revitalized the genre, while her impressions of the American South and New England contributed an immigrant's insight to the large body of writing describing the American scene of the mid-20th century.
Twelve folio-sized wood engravings dominate the text in The Farmer's Year: A Calendar of English Husbandry, which Leighton wrote and illustrated in 1933. This annotated monthly calendar describes, verbally and visually, the rites of plowing, sowing, cultivating and harvesting in the pre-industrialized English countryside. Even the engraved letters that illustrate the beginning of each chapter -- not merely decorative designs but complete scenes in themselves -- are large in feeling. With the freedom experienced in designing her own book, Leighton found herself "reveling in sensuous, verbal descriptions of colour . . . I was . . . both painter and graphic artist."
In Sheep Shearing (plate 52), Leighton achieves a painterly effect through the symphonic interplay of light and shadow, texture and movement. Sun glistens on the sheep's luxuriant coats and shorn bellies, the workers' backs and the newly-mowed fields. Light symbolizes the wholesomeness of man's cultivation of the earth in Ploughing (plate 56), in which a young farmer guides his team-drawn iron plow along the crest of a hill. The radiant, newly-risen sun shines on the plowman, underscoring the spiritual qualities that have long been associated with this fundamental form of labor. On the strength of images like these, Leighton used The Farmer's Year to make a compelling argument that the English farm worker and the cycle of the seasons are integral to the eternal workings of the universe.
Leighton's depictions of rural life evoke nostalgia for a simpler, more pastoral existence and also affirm the creative, restorative power of nature. During the 1930s, the artist experienced this mode of spiritual renewal directly when she herself became a laborer of the earth, cultivating the chalky, wind-swept earth of the Chiltern Hills at the cottage she shared with H.N. Brailsford. Four Hedges: A Gardener's Chronicle, a monthly account of their garden and the native flora and fauna of that region, was widely acclaimed and popularized engraved nature illustration (see plates 60-66). 
In Country Matters, a record of English village life published in 1937, Leighton focused on the changes that modernization and development were exacting on the English worker and his countryside, and, by extension, on society at large. Her images of "heroic labor" not only preserve the practices and rituals of rural life but also illustrate her belief that the true source for health and sanity lay in "the heart of the labouring man." She wrote about the values of the countryside in the Preface to the book:
The engraving Chair Bodgers (plate 70), one of the larger blocks created for Country Matters, depicts the survival of yet another ancient craft. Here, itinerant artisans fashion chair legs from gleanings left by wood cutters in a grove of sun-speckled beeches only a short distance from one of the largest furniture factories in England.
Spurred by the sustained popularity of her books on English country life, Leighton turned to the American South and New England for fresh material for her writing and her art. The colorful nature of the South had captivated her during periodic lecture tours stateside during the 1920s and 30s. Shortly after she left England for America, Leighton negotiated with The Macmillan Company to create a book about the region. Southern Harvest, which features nearly 60 wood engravings, records her graphic and written impressions of rural customs and agricultural rites that were still functioning in an increasingly industrialized South. On-the-spot observation and the artist's rhythmic, elongated style combine to depict the graceful movements of cotton pickers and tobacco loopers as well as scenes of community where neighbors congregate to help shuck corn or quilt. In Tobacco Loopers (plate 95), the shape of the long canvas sacks and the bending forms of the African-American pickers create rhythmic patterns that integrate the workers into the landscape. The result is a pictorial statement of Leighton's belief in the symbiotic relation of man and earth. Leighton confessed that the book was created out of her own special need to become rooted in the American continent. She sought kinship by living among the people of the earth and by learning their habits and their lore, writing, "There is a universality about the people that is healing, and it matters little whether one be talking with a plowman in Devonshire or a tobacco farmer in North Carolina." 
In 1950 Leighton left the South for New England, settling in Woodbury, Connecticut where she lived for the rest of her life. New England's coastline continued to inspire her creative interests. Where Land Meets Sea, published in 1954, as well as prints such as Oyster Houses, Cape Cod show her strong attachment to the region's marine life and its people. In the engraving Shells and Seaweed, groups of baby fish and vibrant seaweed swirl around a majestic conch in the strong underwater currents.
Print Club Commissions
In her important book Wood Engravings of the 1930s, Leighton welcomed the recent re-establishment of subscribing print clubs in America, which she viewed as a democratization in the appreciation and collecting of art: "the first move towards that perfect state of existence where art is no longer an esoteric thing, to be understood by an elect, rich few, but is a necessity for the masses." At least six American print clubs commissioned wood engravings by Leighton during the 1930s and 1940s. 
Commissions by The Woodcut Society of Kansas City, Missouri, for example, resulted in The Net Menders (plate 57) and Winnowers, Majorca (plate 72). Net Menders depicts women of the fishing village of Toulon, France, repairing nets: a labor crucial to the success of the fishermen and to the community's well-being. The scene, which shows a tranquil harbor -- the portal to the open sea and source of sustenance -- is as much a study in light and dark and pattern as it is a study of communal labor. The women's white head scarves contrast boldly with the dark nets and trees, while the arrangement of the nets forms rhythmic patterns. Winnowers, Majorca, in which Spanish workers harvest beans with three-pronged forks, shows Leighton at the height of her artistry as a designer and engraver. Design, balance and rhythm combine with numerous tonal contrasts and textures, and illustrate her skill in using multiple engraving tools to render cross hatching and stippling.
The Cleveland Print Club, by popular vote, selected Corsican Washerwomen (plate 59) as its 1936 print during a competitive exhibition of unpublished prints. Here, in contrast to the undifferentiated faces of the workers in The Net Menders, Leighton depicts each of the Corsican women as a unique individual as they interact with each other and toil beneath the broiling sun. Always interested in recording the processes and stages of labor, Leighton shows some of the women ferrying head-borne baskets of clothing to the washing troughs while others wash, wring and roll the garments in troughs at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.
Decorative Arts Commissions
In the mid-1940s, while Leighton was living and teaching in North Carolina, Wedgwood commissioned her to design a set of 12 plates depicting the industries of New England (plates 100-11). Already familiar with the seascapes of Cape Cod and Wellfleet from summer holidays, the artist traveled throughout the Northeastern states searching for potential subject matter for her designs. As she had done in her recent scenes of the South, Leighton captured for her Wedgwood series the character and essence of New England life and work with both maritime and land-based scenes, depicting activities ranging from lobstering and codfishing to marble quarrying and cranberrying. The plates and the corresponding series of wood engravings (plates 112-25) both depict the various raw materials and sequential steps required in such regional building and harvesting and in this way are kin to the North Carolina Folklore prints. Sugaring, for example, shows the maple leaves, tools and vessels in the foreground, while the tree tapping and sap gathering occur in the middle-and backgrounds. Leighton uses the round format to its fullest advantage in her masterful Whaling, creating an illusion of ceaseless motion and churning in the swells and crests of the all-powerful ocean.
From Pencil to Proof to Press
The actual process of wood engraving was not just a technique for Leighton, but a spiritual act in which the artist created light from the wood block. As she described it, the process was "almost a Biblical feeling that you're making light -- a sort of Genesis." Leighton was a keen and sensitive observer of the natural world and drew heavily from nature when creating her designs. Master etcher John Taylor Arms observed that this fact, combined with her "powerful but subtle draughtsman[ship]" and sense of design, made the artist particularly suited to engrave on wood.  Her working method involved making several quickly executed preliminary sketches and pencil notations onsite to grasp the subject's essential design. Then she would make detailed studies of individual portions of the scene.
Sketches of a slender crab-apple bough in bloom as well as blackbird fledglings, which were used for the engraving Blackbird on Nest and for other prints of birds in Four Hedges, show exquisite botanical accuracy and an exceptional ability to express in a few lines the newborn birds' utter vulnerability and dependency on their parents (plates 64-66). A comparison of her initial conceptual drawings with final drawings used for the engravings shows that Leighton was usually sure of the compositional effect that she wanted from the start.
After creating on-site drawings on paper, Leighton typically drew or traced the final design on a wood block, usually boxwood, which she first covered with a thin coat of Chinese white, and began the engraving process. The charcoal and gouache drawing, a proof, and a numbered engraving for Dare to Call the Flowers My Own (plates 90-92), an illustration for Elsie Symington's By Light of Sun of 1941, show the process that lay behind the creation of Leighton's engravings.  The artist either drew the compositions in reverse from the very beginning so that the print itself would reflect her original intent, or she used a mirror to sketch the design in reverse on the block. Of the two types of wood engraving, Leighton preferred the "white line" technique in which the design is formed by the white spaces created as the artist carves into the block. She considered this method more natural and direct than the "black line" technique, in which the design is created by areas of wood that remain after the rest of the surface has been cut away.  Unlike most engravers, Leighton made trial proofs from the very start of the engraving process, stating that she wanted to be "controlled by the wood itself." Proofs were worked on with white paint until she was satisfied with the tonal contrasts. The final result was, in printmaker Arms' words, a symphony of design: "... everywhere there is selection, organization, arrangement, and everywhere a nice balancing of black and white and grey. Area fits into area, value matches value, lines flow and interweave into a strong, significant pattern."
Leighton, like one of her idols, William Blake, chose black and white wood engraving, an exacting and highly abstract medium, as her preferred means of expressing her thoughts about the natural and imagined world.  She used line and tone to create powerful and sensitive images of nature's beauty and bounty, man's symbiotic relationship to the earth, and the mysteries of the universe. Like the author Thomas Hardy, Leighton chronicled the life and work of rural man and his rapidly disappearing rites and rituals with truth and sincerity, although at times with a hint of melancholy as well. Leighton's unmatched technical skill and the strength of her elegant compositions have made her a highly regarded figure among print specialists. But as North Carolina dramatist Paul Green observed, she also had the rare ability to portray "the dignity and poetry of living souls upon a living earth," a quality that makes her work relevant not just for art historians, but for future generations of gardeners and naturalists, preservationists, social historians, and especially environmentalists.
2 Clare Leighton, Wood-Engraving and Woodcuts (London: The Studio Ltd., 1932), p. 7.
3 Roland Leighton's tragic death is central to Vera Brittain's moving Testament of Youth (first published in 1933). New School for Social Research Director Alvin Johnson and master etcher John Taylor Arms were among the contemporaries who found Leighton's prints spiritually enriching. See Alvin Johnson to Clare Leighton, 12 August 1936 and John Taylor Arms to Clare Leighton 18 March 1949, Clare Leighton Papers, owned by the estate of Clare Leighton, microfilmed by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, reels N69-70, N69-71 and N69-91 (referred to hereafter as "Clare Leighton Papers").
4 Hilaire Belloc, Introduction to Woodcuts: Examples of the Work of Clare Leighton (London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1930).
5 Quoted from J.C. Squire, "Clare Leighton: Wood Engraver," The Studio 93 (March 1927), pp. 173-74; see also H.N. Brailsford, "The Woodcuts of Clare Leighton," The Studio 98 (December 1929), pp. 866-69.
6 Leighton describes those years in Tempestuous Petticoat (New York: Rinehart and Co., 1947), pp. 262-72.
7 For example, Squire, "Clare Leighton: Wood Engraver," p. 174.
8 Leighton rarely depicted scenes that she had not observed and studied; thus the series lacks a print that illustrates the floating of the logs to the saw mill.
9 "The prints are in snow but they are too black," Clare Leighton to Hilaire Belloc, 5 November 1931, Hilaire Belloc Papers, Special Collections, John J. Burns Library, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA.
10 The book was published in 1929; Hardy died in January 1928. Leighton's promotional literature for lecture tours capitalized on her having illustrated Hardy: "Her instinctive sympathies are with the workers in the fields, and it is this which has made her the ideal interpreter of Thomas Hardy," in "Clare Leighton, Artist and Traveler, Illustrated Lectures," William B. Feakins, Inc., 1929, Clare Leighton Papers.
11 H.M. Tomlinson, The Sea and the Jungle (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1930), p. 145.
12 Claire Leighton to Mr. Macmillan, 12 September 1939, Clare Leighton Papers.
13 Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1940), p. 3.
14 Newman I. White, "The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore: Its Organization, Classification, and Publication." A speech given to the General Literature Group of the Modern Language Association, New York, December 28, 1944. In the Frank Clyde Brown Papers, Manuscripts Department, Duke University Library, Durham, NC.
15 Newman White to Bascom Lamar Lunsford, 27 April 1926, Frank Clyde Brown Papers, Duke University Library; "Aunt Emma" to Leighton, 9 October 1946, Clare Leighton Papers. Leighton's portrayal of the Appalachian Mountains people are discussed in more detail in Caroline Mesrobian Hickman, "Graphic Images and Agrarian Traditions: Bayard Wootten, Clare Leighton, and Southern Appalachia," in Judy L. Larson, ed., Graphic Arts and the South (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1991), pp. 245-77.
16 Helen Plotz, ed., Imagination's Other Place: Poems of Science and Mathematics, (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1955 and Helen Plotz, ed., The Earth is the Lord's, (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1965).
17 Clare Leighton, The Farmer's Year: A Calendar of English Husbandry (London: Collins, 1933). From unpublished memoirs in the possession of the Leighton Family, as quoted in Selbourne, British Wood-Engraved Book Illustration, p. 378.
18 Clare Leighton, Four Hedges: A Gardener's Chronicle (London: Victor Gollancz Limited, 1935 and New York: The Macmillan Co., 1935).
19 Clare Leighton, Preface to Country Matters, (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1937), p. xiv.
20 Clare Leighton, Introduction to Southern Harvest, (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1942), p .v. See Caroline Hickman, "Clare Leighton and the American South," Duke University Libraries 17 (Spring 2004), pp. 8-13 for a discussion of the imagery in Southern Harvest and The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore.
21 Clare Leighton, Wood Engravings of the 1930s (London: The Studio Ltd, 1936), p. 10. A number of print societies were formed and flourished during the Depression years, spurred in part by the affordability of contemporary prints and the artists' need to promote and sell their work. The clubs commissioned limited edition prints to serve their subscribers, which were accompanied by the artist's notes or a critic's essay. These clubs continued the tradition of print clubs that had been established in the United States during the 19th century, such as the American Art Union.
22 These include The Woodcut Society of Kansas City; The Albany Print Club; The Cleveland Print Club; The Rochester Print Club; the Woodcut Society of Alexandria; The Chamber Arts Society of Durham; The Miniature Print Society; and The Prairie Printmakers.
23 The club issued 44 prints from 1932-1954, usually in editions of 200, commissioned from many of the leading printmakers of that era. Founder Alfred Fowler evidently made no distinction between the mediums "woodcut" and "wood engraving" when naming the society and selecting prints. The change in the society's location when noting the engraving Clam Diggers reflects Fowler's relocation from Missouri to Virginia.
24 On creating "light," see Joanne Selbourne's interview with Leighton, 25 August 1983, in British Wood-Engraved Book Illustration, p. 376.
25 John Taylor Arms, Introduction to Four Hedges: A Gardener's Chronicle (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1935), unpaginated.
26 Elsie Symington, By Light of Sun (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1941).
27 Leighton, Wood-Engraving and Woodcuts, p. 7.
28 Foreword written by Leighton for her print "Winnowers, Majorca." The engraving tools are described and illustrated in Leighton's Wood-Engraving and Woodcuts.
29 Arms, Introduction to Four Hedges, unpaginated.
30 "I rejoice in the Blake postcard -- He is one of my Gods." Clare Leighton to Henry Schnakenberg, 16 November (year omitted, probably mid-late 1950s), Henry Schnakenberg Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
31 Quoted from Paul Green's essay for the dust jacket of Leighton's Southern
About the author
Caroline Mesrobian Hickman (B.A. Duke University, M.A. Tulane University) is a Washington, D.C. art and architectural historian. She is writing her Ph.D. dissertation on Clare Leighton and her imagery of agrarian life in England and the American South for UNC-Chapel Hill.
Resource Library editor's note
The above exhibition catalogue text was reprinted in Resource Library on August 8, 2008, with permission of the with permission of the Mint Museum of Art. The permissions waere granted to TFAO on Augusst 8, 2008. Mr. Leighton's essay pertains to the exhibition Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton, on display at the Mint Museum of Art May 17 - September 14, 2008.
Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Jonathan
Stuhlman, Curator of American Art, Mint Museum of Art, for his help concerning
permissions for reprinting the above text.
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