William Robinson Leigh (1866-1955), Untitled [The Grand Canyon]
William Robinson Leigh (1866-1955)
Untitled [The Grand Canyon]
Oil on canvas
Canvas size: 16” x 12”
Signed and dated l.r.: W. R. Leigh/ 1909
The art of the American West can best be described as a celebration of a way of life and one of its foremost exponents was the painter, William Robinson Leigh. His extraordinary works provide depictions of the traditions and the history of the pioneers, Native Americans and cowboys, as well as narratives of their daily lives. He also captured the magnificent vistas offered by the breath-taking and monumental landscapes of the West.
Born in 1866 on a farm located near Falling Waters, West Virginia, William Leigh's artistic training began at the age of fourteen, when he began his studies with Hugh Newell at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore. His initial education was financed by the collector W. W. Corcoran and wealthy relatives provided the funds for his continued education at the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany. His use of traditional European techniques branded him as the "Sagebrush Rembrandt" and his bold use of color greatly lent itself to the monumental vistas and dramatic action of his Western paintings.
Leigh first visited the southwest in 1906 under the sponsorship of the Santa Fe Railroad Company, exchanging a painting of the Grand Canyon for a train journey to New Mexico. The Company was later to commission five more works allowing the artist the opportunity to roam the vast expanses of the West capturing what was to become a dying way of life. This particular painting would seem to relate to his works for the Santa Fe Railroad and in particular his painting entitled Grand Canyon, completed for the railroad in 1908, just one year before this work was finished, and now located in the Anschutz Collection (see Joan Carpenter Triccoli, Painters of the American West: The Anschutz Collection (New Haven and London: Denver Art Museum & Yale University Press, 2000) p.153.).
William Robinson Leigh is widely considered to be one of the most accomplished painters and draughtsmen of the American West, his work comparable to that of Frederic Remington and Charles Marion Russell.