Alabama Barn (BPL 533), Tobacco Barn, from Southern Harvest, 1942
Framed (ref: 5459)
Original woodblock (cancelled)
1 1/2 x 3 1/8 in. (3.7 x 8 cm)


Alabama Barn, from which 50 woodcuts were editioned,  appeared as one of the illustrations in the celebrated 1942 Macmillan publication Southern Harvest in which Leighton gave  her graphic and written impressions of rural customs and agricultural rites that were still functioning in an increasingly industrialized South. 

As Caroline Hickman has written:
Clare Leighton (1898-1989) created timeless impressions of agrarian life in England and the American South even as she witnessed the devastation wrought by the world wars and observed economic, social, and political unrest on the two continents during the interwar years. At face value, her wood engravings depicting agrarian life appear not to relate to these tumultuous world events and seem a stalwart continuation of the English pastoral tradition. While her graphic work continued an idealized, even nostalgic view of rural life, it was also a rebuttal of specific contemporary circumstances. Leighton's imagery, when read with her prose, is an intensely personal commentary on the foremost issues confronting mankind during her time war and mechanization, social and economic inequality, the gentrification of the countryside, and the spiritual poverty caused by these societal ills.

We are grateful to David Leighton and Caroline Hickman for assistance.

Provenance: The Artist's Estate

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