Athens, Ga. – The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will show the exhibition “Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Art of Clare Leighton,” organized by the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, N.C., from Nov. 19 to Feb. 3. This chronological and stylistic overview of Leighton’s career is a unique selection of more than 180 works from the Mint Museum’s Pratt Collection, one of the largest of Leighton’s work in the United States.
A native of London, Leighton was best known for her wood engravings, and this exhibition will showcase her prints, drawings, rarely seen watercolors and a set of 12 Wedgwood plates titled “New England Industries” that she designed. Leighton created many of these works when she moved to the United States during World War II and settled in the agrarian South. The exhibition also will include her Canadian Lumber Camp series, which dates from her early visits to North America.
Born into an artistic family, Leighton knew from an early age that she would pursue a career in the arts. In an unpublished essay, she wrote, “It isn’t a matter of deciding, as though one were planning for a career as a doctor or a lawyer . . . the decision is already made and one has been stamped by it from the earliest moments-even before one could formulate what was happening.”
“Leighton was an important figure in the revival of wood engravings and illustration and faced numerous biases due to her gender,” says Paul Manoguerra, GMOA chief curator and curator of American art. Throughout her lifetime, she struggled with challenges regarding the validity of her work as a female artist and prejudices against wood engraving as a legitimate art form. As master etcher John Taylor Arms observed, Leighton’s natural sense of design and “powerful but subtle” draftsmanship made her particularly suited for wood engravings.
Leighton wrote 15 books and created more than 700 prints. She used the world around her as a constant source of inspiration and had a key interest in working people. Works like “Scything” display her respect for those who tended the Earth and held hard labor as a virtue. The print has natural undulating lines that mimic the rhythms of nature.
During her lengthy career, Leighton illustrated her own writing as well as classic and contemporary literature, including notable commissions for books written by Thomas Hardy, Emily Brontë and Thornton Wilder. “Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand” will feature numerous wood engravings that Leighton created specifically as book illustrations, including those for her own book, “Southern Harvest,” and those commissioned for the seven-volume set of “The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore.”
The W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art will sponsor the exhibition.
About the Georgia Museum of Art
Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on the East Campus of the University of Georgia. The address is 90 Carlton Street, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. 30602-6719. For more information, including hours, see www.georgiamuseum.org or call 706/542-GMOA (4662).