Clare Leighton Artist Biography
Clare Leighton is best known for her wood engravings illustrating of agrarian life in England, Europe and the American South. During her career she illustrated at least 65 books, she also wrote and illustrated her own books such as The Farmers Year (1933), Four Hedges (1935), and Country Matters (1937).Clare Veronica Hope Leighton was born in London, the second of three children, to Robert Leighton and Marie Conner. Both her parents were writers, but each encouraged the early interest Clare showed in painting. In her teens the family moved to Keymer in Sussex and Leighton attended classes at Brighton College of Art. She studied under Henry Tonks at the Slade School of Fine Art. At the Central School of Arts and Crafts, under Noel Rooke, she learnt wood engraving, the medium for which she became best known. She also produced designs for Wedgwood ceramics. After her studies Leighton travelled to France, Italy and to the Balkans where she sketched landscapes and peasant workers, and where she found the content on which she would most often concentrate. She felt an affinity for the rural worker, and she suggests in one of her later books that 'the true character of a people is to be found in its workers'.Leighton formed a relationship with the left-wing journalist Henry Noel Brailford and moved with him to a home, 'Four Hedges', in Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire. Here she illustrated and wrote her three major books: 'The Farmer's Year' (1933) a chronicle through twelve months of life on the land; 'Four Hedges' (1935) a personal account of a year in the garden of her own home; and 'Country Matters' (1937) a celebration of English rural life on the eve of the Second World War.In 1939 she went to live and work in America, where she became a Vice-President of the Society of American Graphic Art. Among her works there were 33 stained glass windows for the cathedral in Massachusetts. She died, unmarried, in November 1989 and is buried in Waterbury cemetery, Connecticut, having achieved as wide an acclaim in her adoptive country of the United States as she had already achieved in England, the country of her birth.