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Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand : The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton

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Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton

May 17, 2008 through September 14, 2008

Mint Museum of Art



Corsican Washer Girl 1934

wood engraving 2004.79.106



Due to the generosity of local collector Gabby Pratt, the Mint Museum of Art received an outstanding collection (link is no longer available) of over 200 works of art by the British-born artist-illustrator-author Clare Veronica Hope Leighton (1898-1989). The donation also includes twelve books relating to Leighton’s career as an artist and writer. Focusing on Leighton’s skill as a printmaker, this exhibition includes 35-40 framed wood engravings and book illustrations. The collection is well represented by her wood engravings, for which Leighton is most widely recognized, but also contains numerous drawings (many of which are studies for prints) and rarely seen watercolors, spanning her career from 1923 to 1965. The watercolors offer personal mementos from her travels on the Continent (1922-1926). Unique to the collection is a set of Wedgwood transfer-printed plates based on Leighton’s New England Industries series. Additional materials include several of her books either written and/or illustrated by Leighton, original wood blocks (Duke University Library collection), and wood engraving tools. This project is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation. The books in the collection are now part of The Mint Museum Library's special collections.


Born to an artistic family, Leighton studied wood engraving in Great Britain before moving to the U.S. during World War II. Settling first in Baltimore, she moved to Chapel Hill in 1943 and served as a visiting art lecturer at Duke University from 1943 to 1945. During her career Leighton wrote 15 books and created more than seven hundred prints. The natural world and her surroundings were a continuous source of inspiration. Her timeless images reveal an abiding interest in and respect for the earth and those who tend it, advocating the virtue of hard labor and the rhythms of nature. On the surface, the subjects of her work are simple working people ; the ploughmen, the washer-women, the net menders but Leighton portrays them and their labor with dignity and reverence. Throughout her career, Leighton faced the challenges of bias against not only her gender but also the validity of wood engraving illustration as a legitimate means of artistic expression. Even against such challenges, Leighton persevered and strove to make her art original statements of spirit and aesthetic expression.



 Clare Leighton exhibition page on the Mint Museum website



Print out the Kids Guide below and bring it with you! (It's not just for kids)


Leighton Schoen kids guide.pdf


Books in the Exhibition



Leighton, Clare. Wood-engraving and woodcuts. London:The Studio, Ltd., 1932.


  • Hardy, Thomas. Under the Greenwood Tree: or, The Mellstock Quire; a Rural Painting of the Dutch School ... New York: Macmillan, 1940. PZ3.H222 .U5 1940 - More than sixty engravings by Leighton accompany Hardy's text.
  • Leighton, Clare. Country Matters. London : Victor Gollancz, 1937. DA110 .L34 1937 Seventy-two engravings surrounded by Leighton's look at country life.
  • ------------------- The Farmer's Year: a Calendar of English Husbandry. London : Collins, 1933. NE1217.L35 A25 1933 A month by month look at farmwork with text and engravings by Leighton.
  • ------------------- Four Hedges: A Gardener's Chronicle. London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd., 1935.
  • ------------------- Southern Harvest. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1942. F215 .L5 -"Written in a surging, lyric style and highlighted by the author's finely imaged woodengravings, this book gives a picture of the Southern region which I think ranks among the best..." -Paul Green
  • ------------------- Where Land Meets Sea: the Tide Line of Cape Cod. New York: Rinehart, 1954. F72.C3 L4 Leighton herself describes the book as " merely a gathering together of my own personal impressions...I have written this book solely because I wanted to. And I wanted to do so because I happen to love the Cape deeply.
  • ------------------- Wood-engraving and Woodcuts. The Studio Publications: NY, 1932. NE1225 L4 19 Number two in an "How to Do It" series presents instruction and examples of woodcuts by numerous artists as well as examples of Leighton's own work.
  • Tomlinson, H. M. The Sea and the Jungle. F2546 .T65 1930. First edition with illustrations by Leighton.



Print Resources from the Mint Library

  • Buckland-Wright, John. Etching and Engraving: Techniques and the Modern Trend. Dover Publications: NY, 1973. NE970 B83 1973 Categories are broken down into theory and technique with lots of examples.
  • Hind, Arthur Mayger. An Introduction to the History of Woodcut. New York: Dover, 1963.
  • Larson, Judy L. (ed.) Graphic Arts & the South: Proceedings of the 1990 North American Print Conference. Fayetteville, Ark.: The University of Arkansas Press, 1993. NC105 .N67 1990 Read the excellent essay by Caroline Mesrobian Hickman "Graphic Images and Agrarian Traditions: Bayard Wooten, Clare Leighton, and Southern Appalachia."
  • Rumpel, Heinrich. Wood Engraving. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1974.



Online Resoures



Related Programs

Friends of the Mint Program

Friday, May 16, 10:30 am (coffee at 10:00)

Free with museum admission.

Jonathan Stuhlman, Curator of American Art, and Gabby Pratt, collector, Friends member and Mint donor, will share insights and stories on Gabby's collection of works by Clare Leighton on exhibition in Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand.


Scholar’s Lecture: The Artist Clare Leighton, Mint Museum of Art

Sunday, May 18, 3:00 pm

Free with museum admission.

Charlotte native and art historian Caroline Mesrobian Hickman has conducted extensive research on the life and work of the distinguished British-born printmaker Clare Leighton, completing her doctorate on the artist. In conjunction with the exhibition Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton and Ms. Hickman’s major essay for the catalogue, she will discuss this fascinating artist, her revival of wood block prints, and her career which included a period when she lived in North Carolina and taught at Duke University.


Concert with Chamber Music of Charlotte, Mint Museum of Art

Sunday, June 1, 3:00 pm

Free with museum admission.

The program will feature female composers and folk art-inspired music. The British Isles have long been one of the world’s music capitals. The Bardic and Celtic traditions are among the most well-known music ever created.


Curators’ Tour, Mint Museum of Art

Thursday, June 5, 2:00-2:45 pm

Free with museum admission.

Space is limited; registration requested: 704/337-2098 or programs@mintmuseum.org.

The works of Clare Leighton and the Schoen collection will be discussed with Jonathan Stuhlman, Curator of American Art.


Target Family Fun Saturday, Mint Museum of Art

Second Saturday: drop in anytime between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm

All ages

Kids FREE when accompanied by a paying adult! FREE for museum members!

Sponsored by Target

June 14 – Sketching Scenes of America

Families are invited to drop by our classroom art studio to enjoy art-making together. Prepare to get messy! Groups of 8 or more are encouraged to call ahead: 704/337-2050.






Page created by Joe Eshleman, Library Assistant for the Mint Museum of Art.


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