Meadowlark Gallery: The Artist Biographies

William R. Leigh (1866-1955)
William R. Leigh or William Robinson Leigh was born in Berkeley County, West Virginia, in 1866 and died in New York City, in 1955. The son of impoverished aristocrats, W. R. Leigh was educated privately. He studied art under Hugh Newell at Maryland Institute in Baltimore from 1880 to 1883. He then went to the Raupp-Royal Academy in Munich from 1883 to 1884, the pupil of Gysis from 1885 to 1886, of Lofftz in 1887, and of Lindenschmid from 1891 to 1892. He painted six cycloramas (murals in the round) during 1891 to 1896. Leigh returned to New York City in 1896, after thirteen years in Europe, becoming an illustrator for Scribner's and Collier's and painting portraits, landscapes, and compositions with figures and animals. In 1906, Leigh persuaded the Santa Fe Railroad to give him free transportation for his first trip West, in exchange for a painting. Five more paintings were commissioned, permitting Leigh to make an elaborate sketching trip through Arizona and New Mexico. His critics who had not seen the West said that the resulting paintings were of "purple horses with yellow bellies," a "ridiculously false color," and only illustrations. It was not until the 1940's, that Leigh's Western work was completely accepted. In that period of forty years, he had depicted "every facet of the West, from wild horses to Navajos and from wolf hunts to burro trains." He also painted African wild animals, participating in 1926 and 1928 expeditions for the American Museum of Natural History of New York. After his death, the contents of his studio were given to the Gilcrease Museum, which exhibited 534 oils, 344 charcoals, and many sketches in a special gallery.
View high resolution images of works by William R. Leigh when available.