(American, born in England, 1898–1989)
Canadian Lumber Camp Series: Cutting, Limbing, Loading, Landing, Resting, Breaking Camp, 1931
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowment for Museum Acquisitions
By Dennis Harper, curator of collections and exhibitions
The daughter of popular fiction writers, Clare Leighton enjoyed a lively literary and artistic upbringing in London. She studied at the Brighton School of Art and the Slade School before perfecting her preferred medium, wood engraving, at Britain’s Central School of Arts and Crafts. Evident even in her earliest prints, Leighton favored depictions of rural and working class activities. Her delicately rendered imagery, full of painstaking detail, garnered many commissions for book and periodical illustrations. Leighton’s travels during the 1920s took her across Europe, providing inspiration for numerous subsequent wood engravings, and to America by the end of the decade, where she ultimately settled.
The six prints that constitute the Canadian Lumber Camp series resulted from a weeklong visit the artist made to a remote French-Canadian lumber camp in the Laurentian Mountains north of Ottawa in early 1931. Leighton presents the laborious cycle of timber harvesting in a sequence of richly textured, elegantly patterned images. Through the use of monochromatic black ink on off-white paper, Leighton elicits an almost infinite variety of subtle gray values––from the glistening, pale tones of snow under a winter sun to the shadowy dark grays that disclose the rough surfaces of tree bark, woolen flannel, and weathered skin. Engraved on large matrices of end-grain wood blocks, this series was the largest in scale Leighton had attempted to date. The artist described them to a friend while still executing the blocks as “by far the best things I’ve done.”
In anticipation of Auburn’s celebration of 125 Years of Auburn Women, curators will campaign to acquire work by women artists, thus adding to the 54 females currently represented in the collection. Learn more.