Fishermen and Nets, circa 1950 (BPL 615)
Unmounted (ref: 5710)
Woodcut, signed and titled in pencil  by artist's nephew
6 1/2 in. x 4 3/4 ins.  (16.5 x  12 cm)


Provenance: from the Artist's Estate; thence by descent.

Fishermen and nets (Boston Public Library reference no. 615) was commissioned for The Marblehead Association in 1950.  It dates to a period when Leighton was producing  some of her most memorable prints, based around the subject of American rural life, much as she had done two decades earlier in her celebration of English rural life (The Farmers Year, 1933)Fishermen with nets is closely related to the images she produced in the same year for Wedgwood Plates with twelve designs of New England Industries and the twenty four
illustrations produced  for The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (published in a seven-volume series by Duke University Press from 1952 to 1964). Caroline Mesrobian Hickman has described Leighton's treatment of these subjects as follows: 
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.

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

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