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    William Robinson Leigh (American, 1866-1955)
    The Best in the Bunch, 1941
    Oil on canvas laid on aluminum
    42-1/2 x 60-1/2 inches (108.0 x 153.7 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: W.R. Leigh / 1941

    Grand Central Art Galleries, Inc., New York;
    Jack and Nevada Frye, Tucson, Arizona, circa 1940s-'50s;
    J. Erik Jonsson, Dallas;
    Philip R. Jonsson, Dallas, by descent from the above.

    Braniff Airways, Love Field Passenger Terminal Building, Dallas, on loan, 1965.

    J. DuBois, W. R. Leigh: The Definitive Illustrated Biography, Kansas City, 1977, pp. 100-01, preliminary studies illustrated.

    Beginning in 1906, William Robinson Leigh made many trips to the American West while maintaining his studio and home in New York City. While his travels covered a wide range of western territory, he had a particular interest in and affection for the Indian lands of Arizona and New Mexico and spent much time there. Leigh was a highly trained artist who had spent twelve years in the Royal Academy in Munich and had worked as an illustrator for ten years in New York before he made his first extensive trip to the West. While he painted other subjects in his long career, most notably a series of murals depicting the African landscape for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, his favorite subjects were the Indians, the landscape, and the cowboys of the Southwest. When an art critic complimented him on one of his western scenes, he said that "the West brings out the best in me."

    Painted in 1941, The Best in the Bunch is indicative of Leigh's talents as both a figure painter and a landscapist. Leigh's skill in each discipline was honed through his rigorous training in the European academies. Also contributing to his skill was Leigh's practice of making hundreds of field sketches that he would later use as color and tonal references for his finished works. Each of his paintings was meticulously constructed in the same manner. He began with the backgrounds and worked his way slowly to the primary figures in the foreground. Each figure was drawn in charcoal and then colored over with oil. While on location, Leigh would paint the landscape at several different times during the day to make sure that he could accurately depict the quality of the southwestern light at any given hour. The Best in the Bunch shows his figures in the brilliant light of midday, struggling to wrangle a spectacular bucking bronco. The colorful horses and the Native Americans are skillfully contrasted with the subtler colorings and shadings of the arid landscape. As always, Leigh deftly incorporates details and nuances that add to the painting's overall feeling of reality. An expansive mountain range calls the viewer's eyes to the far left distance, adding yet another authentic detail, while the figure in the foreground struggles so physically that his bandana flies off his head, mid-air and mid-action, giving the viewer the sense of having just walked up on the scene as it is unfolding.

    Leigh's earlier experience as an illustrator no doubt gave him ample experience in constructing a visual narrative, but paintings such as this one sprang completely from his own imagination. They were conceived as dramatic vignettes of the Old West, stories of a time and place that continue to have a powerful hold on the popular imagination.

    Unlike his contemporaries in the field of western art, Frederic Remington and Charles Marion Russell, Leigh achieved his greatest recognition and success relatively late in his career. He was 75 when he produced this work and his skill as an artist had not been diminished in any way by his advanced age. While both Remington and Russell had highly successful but relatively brief careers, Leigh captured the beauty and drama of the American West with consistent quality for almost fifty years. In many ways his career marked the end of one era: the nineteenth century heyday of the great western illustrators and eye-witness artists, and the beginning of another: the modern era of contemporary western artists.

    The Best in the Bunch stands as one of Leigh's most accomplished paintings from his mature period. This masterwork of the American West is being offered on behalf of the Estate of Philip R. Jonsson, Dallas, Texas. A son of former Dallas mayor and Texas Instruments co-founder J. Erik Jonsson, Philip founded Signal Media in 1984 with three radio stations currently operating in Little Rock. Philip was an active civic leader and supporter of numerous organizations in Texas and Arkansas for many years. He was past president of the Dallas Symphony Foundation board, and honorary chair of the J. Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science Executive Council at UT Dallas, among many others. Heritage is pleased to present this exceptional painting, along with other notable lots in this sale, on behalf of the Jonsson family.
    Property From the Estate of Philip R. Jonsson, Dallas

    More information about William Robinson Leigh, also known as Leigh, William Robinson, Leigh, William, .

    Condition Report*: Canvas is wax lined and laid down on aluminum; craquelure throughout the image; fine lines of in-paint outlining the two figures in the foreground; one circular area of in-paint to the falling figure's left shoe.
    Framed Dimensions 48.5 X 68.5 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. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. 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. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2020
    3rd Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,407

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

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