Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book of the Day: a 1940s memoir of Carolinas rural life by famed artist Clare Leighton, in a very rare first edition

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Leighton, Clare, Southern Harvest (Macmillan, 1st ed., 1st printing, 1942). One of the most famous mid-20th century Anglo-American woodcut artists, Clare Leighton spent the war years in North Carolina. This collection of memories of her travels in the rural Carolinas of that day are brilliantly illustrated by the most singular woodcuts. Truly a lost art! Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket showing some wear and chipping. Some fading to spine of dustjacket, Signed by a previous owner inside front cover. Tight binding. Very good condition overall. Quarto, 157 pp. Very Rare. HBB price: $300 obo.


Clare Leighton was an English/American artist, writer and illustrator, best known for her wood engravings.

Clare Leighton was born in London on 12 April 1898, 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.

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During the late 1920s and 1930s, Clare 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, Massachusetts (USA).

The best known of Clare Leighton’s 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. Books set in America and written after Clare’s emigration include Southern Harvest (1942) and Where Land meets Sea – the Tideline of Cape Cod (1953). Autobiographical text and illustrations are available in “Clare Leighton: the growth and shaping of an artist-writer”, published 2009.

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