National Museum of Women in the Arts
Clare Leighton
April 12 1898 - November 04 1989
Photograph of Clare Leighton, ca. 1930, unknown photographer. 10 x 9 inches (26 x 20 cm). Miscellaneous photograph collection. Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA.
Place of Birth:
American, British – English
Phonetic Spelling:
clair LAY-tehn
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Books and manuscripts, Decorative and utilitarian works, Drawings and prints
Artistic Role(s):
Designer, Engraver, Illustrator, Printmaker, Stained glass Artist, Wood Engraver
American Regionalism
Artist's Biography:
Clare Leighton was an author, painter, illustrator, and one of the leading wood engravers of her time. She was born in London and home schooled by her parents, both prominent writers. Leighton received her artistic training in England and executed her first wood engraving in 1923. In this print technique, a design is carved on the endgrain of a piece of wood, allowing for fine details and requiring extraordinary precision and control. Leighton's compositions combine intricate detailing, strong contrasts of light and dark, and an acute sense of rhythm and proportion.

Leighton's prints mostly portray life and work on farms and logging camps, reflecting her love for the land and respect for the people working it. She also had a long and prolific career as a book illustrator of texts by Thomas Hardy, Emily Brontë, and Thornton Wilder, as well as fifteen books of her own.

Leighton emigrated to the United States in 1939, and after extended stays in Baltimore and North Carolina, she settled in Woodbury, Connecticut in 1951. In this later part of her career, she also created designs for Steuben Glass, Wedgewood plates, and several stained glass windows for churches in New England. She is still best known for her prints, however, which can be found in the the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, and many more public collections in the U.S. and Europe.

Other Occupation(s):
Author, Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Slade School of Fine Art, University of London, London, England (1921-1923) Central School of Arts and Crafts, London County Council, London, England (1922) Brighton School of Art, Brighton, England (1915-1920)
Related Visual Artists:
friend of John Taylor Arms student of Noel Rooke student of Henry Tonks protégée of Eric Gill
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Award for greatest contribution to the culture of New England, New England Society of New York, New York, NY, USA (1954) Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Colby College, Waterville, ME, USA (1940) First Prize and Logan Medal, International Engraving Exhibition, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1930)
Earliest exhibition:
Society of Wood Engravers Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, London, England (1923)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Women Artists of the New Deal Era: A Selection of Prints and Drawings
The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Women and Books: Illustrators, Writers, Designers
Artist retrospective(s):
Clare Leighton: An Exhibition: English Seed Corn, Boston Public Library, Boston, MA, USA (1977) Wood Engraving in its Richest Flowering: A Retrospective of the Prints of Clare Leighton, June 1 Gallery, Washington, DC, USA (1974) Clare Leighton: A Retrospective Exhibition, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, USA (1967)
Related places
Woodbury (died at)