The Bird Cage (for Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree) by Leighton, 1940. Wood engraving on paper. On view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Leighton was raised in England, where she was well known for her illustrations of classic books by authors such as Emily Brontë and Thomas Hardy and for her impressive writings and wood engravings about rural culture and preindustrial craft. She brought her arts and crafts sensibility (and her flair for social realism) to this country in 1939, living first in Maryland and North Carolina and later in New England, where she spent several years creating wood engravings for a set of plates depicting New England industries (whaling, gristmilling, cranberrying, and the like) issued by Wedgwood (See ANTIQUES, January/February 2011, or themagazineantiques.com/articles/leighton).
The show runs concurrently at the VMFA and at the University of Richmond’s Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center. Taken together the material on view attests to Leighton’s meticulous research into the subjects she chose and the care with which she developed each stage on the way to the final product. Her work radiates a passionate and joyful advocacy for her subjects. To her celebration of physical labor as a favorite subject she joined her own love of making things by hand.
Untitled (Rocky Shore) by Clare Leighton (1898– 1989), 1923–1927. Watercolor on paper. The objects illustrated are in the Evelyn Lloyd Phaup Collection, loaned by the Hudson family. On view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.
Clare Leighton: From Pencil to Proof to Press · Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, and Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center, University of Richmond · to April 6, 2014 · vmfa.state.va.us · museums.richmond.edu