Clare Leighton Biography

Clare Leighton

British / American



Clare Ellaline Hope Leighton, author, designer, lecturer, painter, and printmaker, was born in London on April 12, 1898. Her mother, Marie Connor Leighton, was a writer of fiction and, her father, Robert Leighton, wrote adventure stories for boys.

During her formative years she was privately educated but she briefly attended the Brighton School of Art before entering the Slade School for more formal training. In 1922, she was enrolled at the Central School of Art and Design where she learned the art of wood engraving under Noel Rook. The following year her work was included in an exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers whose members included Eric Gill, Robert Gibbings, and John Nash.

By 1927 Leighton began illustrating the works of authors such as Thornton Wilder and Thomas Hardy, and, between 1930 and 1976, she authored and illustrated a number of books.

During her 1939 visit to the United States, Leighton decided to remain. The following year Colby College awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Fine Art. She lived briefly on Long Island and then in Baltimore. In 1943, she was living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which she used as a base for traveling about the east coast. She became a U.S. citizen in 1945 and about 1949, she purchased property in Woodbury, Connecticut on which she had built a house of her own design. 

She is primarily known as a wood engraver but she designed for Wedgwood and Steuben Glass, and designed windows for churches and cathedrals.

Leighton was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the Society of American Graphic Arts. She was also named a Fellow of the National Academy of Design and the Royal Society of Painter Etchers and Engravers. In 1985, she was made Honorary Fellow of the Society of Designer-Craftsmen.

Her illustrative work would be included in extensive library collections and her woodengravings are in the collections of Baltimore Museum, Boston Public Library, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, British Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Museum of Art, Fogg Museum at Harvard, Library of Congress, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum, Mint Museum, National Gallery of Canada, National Gallery of Stockholm, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Clare Leighton died on November 4, 1989, in Connecticut.