DescriptionTHE PROPERTY OF PHILIP JONSSON
WILLIAM ROBINSON LEIGH (American, 1866-1955)
Home, Sweet Home, 1932
Oil on canvas
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4 cm)
Signed and dated lower left: W.R. Leigh 1932
Grand Central Galleries, New York (label verso);
Mr. Eric Jonsson, Dallas, Texas;
Thence by descent.
Home Sweet Home, W. R. Leigh's evocative painting of three men sharing a campfire set against a golden Southwestern sky, contains all the elements that have made the artist's work a perennial favorite among Western art collectors. It is masterfully drawn, saturated with the colors and tones of the western landscape, and it tells a compelling story of camaraderie on the plains. It was completed in 1931 at the height of Leigh's skill as a painter. By that time, the artist had spent many years traveling throughout the West, but with a particular interest in the Indian lands of New Mexico and Arizona. He used his travels to make meticulous sketches and oil studies of the land and people of the Southwest, often producing over one hundred images in any single location. Later, back in his New York studio, he referred to those sketches to create large works such as this painting.
William Robinson Leigh was born in 1866 and grew up in rural West Virginia where he showed a very early aptitude for art. Born into a family that had lost their fortune in the Civil War, Leigh was able to attend the Maryland Institute in Baltimore at the age of fourteen through the generosity of his aunt and uncle. He excelled at the institute and left to study at the Royal Academy in Munich only a few years later. He studied in Germany for another 12 years and returned to America with a mastery of the techniques of the Old European masters. While he had long dreamed of venturing into the American West to stoke his artistic imagination, the necessity of earning a living led to his decade long work as an illustrator for the leading illustrated publications of the day, such as Collier's and Scribner's. Like his contemporary Frederic Remington, Leigh bristled at the constraints and lack of creativity in terms of subject matter and style that were necessary in the illustration market. He felt that his true artistic talent would not reach its full potential until he could put aside his work as an illustrator.
In 1897, he had made a brief trip to Wyoming for Scribner's magazine to gather material for a story on western wheat farmers. That trip whetted his appetite for more travels in the West, but economic necessity would keep him away from fulfilling that dream until 1906, when he entered into a mutually beneficial arrangement with the Santa Fe Railroad. In exchange for free passage to the Southwest, Leigh agreed to paint images of the Grand Canyon and other western subjects for use in the Railroad's advertising campaigns. Leigh had been invited by a friend from his Munich days to visit Laguna, New Mexico and his contract with the Santa Fe railroad allowed him to spend several weeks soaking up the Southwestern landscape and culture. That initial trip was profoundly influential on his career and development as an artist. During the next several years, he traveled extensively in the Southwest and throughout the West, including the Yellowstone territory of Wyoming and Montana. At each location, he spent as much time as possible painting outside, often under the shade of a large umbrella. He painted throughout the day and often arose in the middle of the night to capture the cool colors of the moonlit landscape.
In Home Sweet Home, Leigh utilized the long hours he spent painting directly in the field to present a quiet scene that is rich in detail and color. His three companions, two cowboys and a Navaho Indian are dramatically lit by a small campfire and are surrounded by their provisions and gear, the placement of which and the attention to such details as the labels on the cans in the camp boxes adds an extra touch of authenticity to the scene. In the background the three riders' horses are tethered at the horizon line and are contrasted against a brilliantly colored sky. All of Leigh's skills as an artist and storyteller are amply displayed in this one scene that was the result of hours of sketching and preparation. Home Sweet Home and Renegade at Bay were originally acquired by Mr. Eric Jonsson, former mayor of Dallas from 1964 to 1971. Heritage is pleased to present these exceptional paintings on behalf of the Jonsson family.
Original canvas has been relined on resin panel backed by linen and restretched on its original stretchers. Original paint layer is intact and in very good condition. Framed Dimensions 52 X 72 Inches
*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.
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