Leighton, Clare

(1898 – 1989)

Tobacco Growing, BPL614, 1949-50

SKU: 5217
The original woodblock carved by the artist for the wood engraving published 1949-1950, Boston Public Library no. 614
9 1/2 in. in diameter
Height: 0cm


David Leighton, the artist’s nephew

In the late 1940’s Wedgwood commissioned Leighton to produce a series of 12 wood engravings. to represent the traditional industries for which New England was famous, including Whaling (Massachusetts, especially Nantucket), Marble Quarrying (a Vermont specialty), Lobstering (associated with Maine), Tobacco Growing (Connecticut), Maple Sugaring (Vermont and New Hampshire), Cranberrying (Massachusetts), as well as a variety of  traditional activities found in all New England States, and many other northern or coastal States, including Ship Building, Logging, Farming, Cod Fishing, Grist Milling and Ice Cutting.  The original twelve wood engravings themselves were produced in a limited edition of 50 sets, individually numbered and signed by the artist.  Wedgwood then adapted these engravings and transfer printed them onto 10.5 ins dinner plates.

The work took her all over the Northeast, and upon its completion she decided to move to Massachusetts (she would later settle in Woodbury, Connecticut). Although she broke new ground in designing the Wedgwood plates, she finished the project feeling both triumphant and exhausted. In the unpublished notes towards an autobiography she made in old age, she recollected: “Once I had finished the Wedgwoods, I realised I needed to forget wood engraving. It is no wonder that after so many years, I found myself growing exhausted by it. I felt I was running the risk of repeating myself and ceasing to grow.” She saw the Wedgwood plates as one of her most ambitious projects, perhaps even the culmination of her career.

A collection of original artwork and manuscript material by Leighton for the series is in the collection of The Yale Centre for British Art, including Leighton’s preliminary studies, compositional studies, wood-engraved states, and final prints:


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Leighton, Clare

1898 – 1989

Clare Leighton attended the Brighton School of Art (1915), the
Slade School of Fine Art (1921’23) and the Central School of Arts
and Crafts. Despite her childhood nickname ‘The Bystander’, she
became a hugely visible artist on both sides of the Atlantic, and her
vast oeuvre includes engravings, paintings, bookplates, illustrations
and stained glass. Her twelve plates for Wedgwood, New England
Industries, 1952, are amongst her best-known work. 

She exhibited with the SWE in London (1923) and at the
1934 Venice Biennale ‘ attaining full membership to the Royal
Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in the same year. She also
made several tours of the United States, becoming a naturalised
citizen in 1945. By the time of her death, Leighton had authored
twelve books and made over 840 prints.


Clare Leighton
The Reverend Hill Walks Away, BPL500, 1942
Clare Leighton
The Darking Thrush, Hardy Shepherds, (Thomas Hardy), BPL 774b 1965
Clare Leighton
Singing, BPL 723 1957
Clare Leighton
I went by the field (Psalms), BPL 667 1952
Clare Leighton
Tulip Poplar Bud BPL 517 1942
Clare Leighton
The Cello Player, BPL 722, circa 1957
Clare Leighton
Cinnamon Fern, BPL 508 1942
Clare Leighton
Louisiana Pilgrimage (BPL 525), 1942
Clare Leighton
Frontispiece Ellen… (BPL 564), 1944
Clare Leighton
Cotton Picker (BPL 491), Cotton Frontispiece, 1942
Clare Leighton
BPL 664 Hear ye children (BPL664) Psalms, circa 1952
Clare Leighton
Miller (BPL 497)