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Wednesdays Wood engraver

May 14, 2014


I have a lovely home and garden and I look forward to a day when I can spend a little bit more time in both.  Not necessarily doing gardening or housework but just enjoying them.  Of course there will be  degree of housekeeping but mostly I want to watch and create;  particularly in the garden.  Even when the weather is inclement I need not even venture out; I can see the extent of my garden from my kitchen window and my back door also has a pleasant view.

I will not retire fully, I hope straight away, rather reduce my hours, as I still enjoy my work and it is rich source for my creativity at home.

This week I came  across a little book in the Museum Bookshop; a prime example of the things that turn up to whet my appetite and provide fodder for my blog.

The book published by Little Toller Books in 2010 (first published in 1935) called Four Hedges by Clare Leighton  (1898-1989) and introduced by Carol Klein.  For me, this is a double (or more) delight because Carol Klein, the Gardener’s World presenter is also inspirational in my garden.  Clare Leighton was one of the finest wood engravers of the 20th century.  In the 1930’s she settled in the countryside with her long-term partner Henry Noel Brailsford the political journalist.  Her garden became her passion; planting and tending trees, vegetables and flowers.  While observing the seasonal changes in the garden she grew familiar with its wildlife and character.  Forging a relationship which went on to fed her work as an artist and contributed to the happiest years of her life.  I cannot pretend that my back yard in the centre of Reading can compare with Clare Leighton’s garden deep in the Chiltern Hills but I hope I will find endless images to sketch and engrave.

Clare Leighton was born in London and studied in Brighton, Slade and Central schools of art. Travel in Europe nurtured an empathy for rural workers and their culture reflected in her work.  Although she was an accomplished writer, designer and artist she was best known as a wood engraver who inspired a revival of the craft in Britain and North America. She illustrated books by Thomas Hardy, Gilbert White and Henry David Thoreau as well as her own Four hedges. Country matters, The farmer’s year and Southern Harvest. She also created designs for Wedgewood and several stained glass windows for churches in New England. In 1939 she emigrated to America and settled in North Carolina where she taught at the Duke University and was elected to the National Academy.  Her work is held in public collections around the world, including the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.


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