Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Free Painting Lesson from Brian Neher

Artist Brian Neher of North Carolina has recently posted a nearly hour-long, free painting tutorial to his blog and to his YouTube account, in which he demonstrates painting an apple from photographs.  Throughout the video, Neher shares the process he gained under the tutelage of famous American illustrator and portraitist Joe Bowler, and from his own personal study of the artists of the past.  Using the Four Principles of Painting (Drawing, Value, Color, and Edges), he paints a likeness of the apple from start to finish in real time (there are no random cuts where segments of the progress are skipped over).  Neher's voice is clear, the scripting is smooth, and the filming with a second screen for the palette is well thought-out.

None of the Four Principles of Painting is gone into with great depth in the video.  The demonstration is just an overview of the methods used by Neher, and offers a glimpse at the information contained in his newly released DVD collection.  For the advanced beginner, this may just be a great jumping off point for a more structured study on the art of painting.

If you were not already familiar with Neher's outstanding portrait work, then quite likely, you know him from facebook, where he has assembled an incredible collection of images of works from 'Painters of the Past.'  If you have not seen them yet, befriend Neher, and check out the wonderful images he has shared in his photo albums.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bardwell and The Murray Method

Mulberry fruit at the campus of the University of Kansas

Thomas Bardwell, in his 1756 book, The Practice of Painting... (see earlier post), offered to young students painting instructions that were, for their time, the best and most comprehensive ever published.  He formulated his technique of painting in stages (ie. First Painting or Dead-Colouring, the Second Painting, and the Third or Last Painting), by studying the works of the artists of the past, and after personally learning from "a tedious Course of Mistakes."  Through the decades, as as other authors published books with contemporary information on mediums, varnishes, grounds, and pigments¹, the information on the technical process of painting was borrowed from Bardwell, keeping his methods relevant more than a century after their initial publication.

So influential was Bardwell's book, that a single sentence from that work spawned its own method and adherents:  "Shade-Teint," wrote Bardwell, "is made of Lake, Indian Red, Black, and White, mixed to a beautiful Murrey Colour of a middle Teint: This is the best Colour for the general Ground of Shadows: for which Reason I call it the Shade Teint: It mixes with the Lights delightfully, and produces a pleasant clean Colour, a little inclined to the redish Pearl."²  This "Murrey Colour" of which Bardwell spoke, referred to the stain created by mulberries, and was a common term in heraldry for a hue somewhere between gules (red) and purpure (violet).  The Murray Method, which derived its name from the color murrey, was nothing more than using Bardwell's "Shade-Teint" as an unifying, monochromatic underpainting color.  In subsequent stages, other colors were applied, reserving opaque colors for establishing the lights, while transparent colors were overlaid the murrey base to create the shadows.

Tints of Violet Hematite  from Natural Pigments

The Honourable John Collier in his book A Manual of Oil Painting (1886) had this to say about the technique:   "Some artists have considered that it is as well to separate the difficulties of colour and of light and shade, and to attack them separately.  There are various methods founded on this principle, the most thorough-going of which was a good deal practised in England about thirty years ago.  It was called the Murray method, and consisted in modelling the subject very carefully in a sort of purplish-grey, called Murray (or mulberry) colour.  When the modelling was complete the colour was added by thin glazings of transparent pigments."³

His First Day of School

Though, as Collier indicated, the popularity of the Murray Method reached its zenith in the mid-nineteenth century, it was not without its practitioners in the twentieth century.  Probably the most prominent of these was Norman Rockwell, who on occasion began his illustrations with a monochromatic "Murrey" underpainting using Mars Violet (artificial violet red iron oxide).  Of the specific painting, His First Day of School, done as an advertisement for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Rockwell said, "The binding color (the color I used in all the background and shadows) was Winsor & Newton Mars Violet.  I love this color because it is the richest and warmest I know."⁴  He applied the pigment in a dry-brush manner using virtually no medium, and when it was done (one and a half days later), worked back into the lights thickly with Shiva's Underpainting white, a fast-drying, half-casein / half-oil paint with heavy body.⁵  The following day, when the underpainting was dry, Rockwell sealed it with shellac, and began his final painting in earnest.⁶

¹ Leslie Carlyle, The Artist's Assistant, (Archetype Books, London, 2007), p. 197.
² Thomas Bardwell, The Practice of Painting and Perspective Made Easy, (London, 1756), p. 10.
³ Honourable John Collier, A Manual of Oil Painting, (Cassell & Co., New York, 1887), pp. 60-61.
⁴ Norman Rockwell, Rockwell on Rockwell:  How I Make a Picture, (Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 1979), p. 168.
⁵ Idem.
⁶ Rockwell, p. 169.

Violet Hematite from Natural Pigments (the natural alternative to artificial violet red iron oxide).

Mars Violet Deep from Winsor & Newton (several years ago, Winsor & Newton revamped their pigment line, and cancelled production of their Mars colors with the exception of Mars Violet Deep).


Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Memoriam: Gordon Wetmore (1938-2011)

The 2011 Portrait Society of America Grand Prize Winner, Jesus Villarreal (l.), being congratulated by Chairman Gordon Wetmore

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of portrait painter, Gordon Wetmore.  Having only recently been diagnosed with the rare neurodegenerative disorder, Prion Disease, Wetmore quickly succumbed to its devastating effects, and died the evening of August 25, 2011.  He was 73.

Gordon, whose portrait commissions included such notables as Norman Vincent Peale, Jack Nicklaus, Princess Grace of Monaco, and President Richard M. Nixon, had a passion for the arts, and made much effort in his life to share his love of the field with other like-minded people.  As co-founder of the Portrait Society of America, and its Chairman since its inception in 1998, Wetmore helped in making the non-profit organization the largest of its kind in the world.  An affable man, his warmth and generosity will be missed by the many who came to know him.

At the request of Gordon's wife, Connie, and their three daughters, the Portrait Society of America has established the Gordon Wetmore Legacy Scholarship Fund so that Gordon's love of the arts will continue to be shared far into the future.  To learn more about the scholarship fund, please visit the Portrait Society of America's website, where donations to the fund are now being accepted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dead-Colouring: The First Painting of the Flesh

More than a year ago, I published a post on the academic ├ębauche, and the historic French palette most often associated with it.  Today, I re-visit the topic of the ├ębauche, or first painting, through the writings of Englishmen William A. Pinnock, and by necessity, Thomas Bardwell, from whom Pinnock borrowed his data.  This is also a continuation of yesterday's post which introduced the Pinnock/Bardwell flesh palette.

William A. Pinnock, A Catechism on the Practice of Painting in Oil (c. 1817)

The First Painting, or Dead-Colouring of Flesh. 
Q.  What is the first process in painting flesh?
A.  It is divided into two parts:  the one is the work of the shadows;  the other that of the lights. 
Q.  What is the work of the shadows?
A.  The work of the shadows, is to make out all the drawing very correctly with the shade tint, in the same  manner as if it were to be done with this colour only, leaving the canvass to form the light, as in a drawing on coloured paper:  the colour to be used sparingly as it approaches the light. 
Q.  What is the work of the lights?
A.  The lights are laid in with the light red tint, in different degrees, as we see them in nature.  These two colours of the shade and light red tints, produce a clean middle tint in mixing with each other, and are of so friendly a nature that, in mixing or changing them from one to the other, they will not appear dirty, but will take a pure and pearly hue;  therefore, it is highly proper to make out the greatest part of the likeness with them.
In this state, the complexion may be improved by the introduction of yellow tints in the lights and the bluish tints in their places.  The shadows may be gone over with the red, or warm shade;  but still short of the strength they must afterwards receive:  and it must here be observed, that neither the lights nor the shades should be darker than the complexion.  The light colour to be laid with full pencil, and not too liquid, more especially if the ground, or canvass, on which it is painted, is of a darkish tone.  The whole must now be united by a softener, or a long hog-haired tool, while the colours are yet wet;  and this is called the first part, or dead-colouring.

Thomas Bardwell from The Practice of Painting (1756):

First Painting 
The First Painting, or Dead-colouring, I divide into Two Parts:  The First, I call the First Lay, or Ground;  the second, the Laying on the Virgin Teints. 
The first Lay of Colours consists of Two Parts:  The one is the Work of the Shadows only, and the other that of the Lights. 
The Work of the Shadows is to make out all the Drawing, very correctly, with the Shade-Teint, in the same manner as if it was to be done with this Colour only;  and remember to drive or lay the Colour sparingly.  The Lights should be all laid in with the Light-red Teint, in different Degrees, as we see them in Nature:  These two Colours united produce a clean tender Middle Teint;  for, mixing with the Shade-Teint, they turn turn to a pearly Hue;  and by strengthening them with the Light-red, we may work to a very good Resemblance.  In uniting the Lights and Shades, we should use a long Softener, about the Size of a large Swan's-quill;  which will help to bring the Work into Character, and leave the Colouring more delicate;  then go over the darkest Shadows with the Red or Warm Shade, which will finish the first Lay. 
The Warm Shade being laid on the Shade-Teint, improves it to a warmer Hue;  but if laid instead of the Shade-Teint, it will dirty and spoil the Colours it mixes with;  and if the Red Shade be laid first, instead of the Shade-Teint, the Shadows would then appear too red and bloody;  therefore, notwithstanding these two Colours are the best that can be for the Shadows, yet they are too strong to be laid alone;  which is a Proof of the great Use and Merit of the Shade-Teint.  Here we may observe, that the Shade and Light-red Teints are so friendly and delicate in their Natures, that they will not dirty, tho' we are continually changing them:  How proper then, and agreeable to our Purpose, are they, for making the most principal Part of the Likeness, when in altering and changing they always produce a clean Colour of the inviting pearly Hue?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Catechism on the Practice of Painting in Oil

Around 1817, William A. Pinnock, a former schoolmaster, decided to publish a series of cheap educational works in the form of question and answer books.  Among the first of these was A Catechism on the Practice of Painting in Oil, With Some Account of the Nature of Fresco Painting - Painting on Glass - Enamel - Encaustic - and Crayon Painting.  It was quite an ambitious book, especially considering that it was only 3 X 5 inches in size, and contained only 77 pages, but it did in fact offer some useful, historical methods for art making, and for only 9 pence, it was a bargain.

Pinnock was not alone in producing these economical manuals in 18th century England;  several of London's larger colourmen also put out these little gems, hoping to entice more people to purchase their ready-made products.  Reeves and Sons, Messrs. Massoul and Co., and Rowney, Dillon, and Rowney (Daler-Rowney) put out artist companion books, and Winsor & Newton produced many of their "yellow shilling books," in a wide variety of topics, reprinting several of them all the way into the twentieth century.

What is more, the information was very consistent, but perhaps this should be no surprise - several of the same booklets were printed by competing colourmen at the same time; some were reprinted and reprinted for decades, but each edition was credited to a different author though the information remained the same;  some were just plagiarized.

For Pinnock, who was not an artist, his source material was a book by Thomas Bardwell printed in 1756.  Very few changes were made from the original, and in some places, whole paragraphs were copied intact from the earlier tome.  And though Pinnock's Catechism on the Practice of Oil Painting was lat printed in 1840 (5th ed.), Bardwell's instructions were adapted again and again by various authors afterwards.  This means that Bardwell's technique was being taught, at least in written form, for nearly 150 years.

From William A. Pinnock's Catechism on the Practice of Oil Painting:

Q.  What is the method of preparing the palette, or the arrangement of the colours?
A.  The preparation of the palette depends on the subject to be painted;  whether of the flesh, drapery, or other substances.  For general use the colours may be placed in the following order:  white, yellows in their several degrees, lake, vermilion, light red, Indian red, burnt sienna, umber, Vandyke brown, black, and Prussian blue.  These colours may be ranged on the far side of the palette;  the white nearest the thumb. 
From these colours you make your tints, or degrees, by mixing white with the original colour.  These degrees should be three in number, and are called light, shade, and middle tint.

Q.  What are the principal colours used in painting flesh? 
A. These must depend on the nature of the complexion.  Those for general use are, 
Flake white,
Yellow oker,
Light red,
Indian red,
Ivory black,
Ultra-marine, and
Prussian blue 
(to these may be added burnt umber, and burnt and raw sienna) 
The last mentioned colour (Prussian blue) must be used with great caution;  and only for greenish or olive tints found in some complexions.  From these colours the principal tints are made. 
Light red tint is made of light red and white, and is the best colour for the general ground of flesh.  It is apt to grow darker than when it is first laid on, and therefore must be allowed for. 
Yellow tint is sometimes made with Naples yellow and white;  but, for general use, yellow oker and white.  This tint, also, will grow darker with time. 
Vermilion and white mixed to a middle tint. 
Lake, white and vermilion, used chiefly for the cheeks and lips. 
Blue tint is made of ultra-marine and white, mixed to lightish azure.  With it the gradations should be blended:  following the yellows it produces greenish blue, and, with the reds, it inclines to purple. 
Lead, or grey tint, is black and white mixed to a middle degree.  This tint is very useful in gradations and in the eye. 
Olive, or green tint, may be made of black, white, and yellow, with a small portion of blue, as the nature of the complexion may require. 
Shade tint, black, white, Indian red, and lake, mixed to a middle tint.  This is the best tone for the ground colour of shadows. 
Red shade is nothing but Indian red and lake. 
Warm shade is lake, a little black, and burnt or raw sienna. 
Dark shade is made of ivory black and Indian red.  This colour mixes kindly with the red shade, and agreeably with the middle tints;  it is an excellent colour for the shadows, and one of the finest working colours we have.

In Bardwell's original, the flesh colors were slightly different.  Pinnock left out carmine and brown pink, and relegated burnt umber to a supplemental color.  Bardwell did not list burnt and raw sienna in his flesh colors at all.

Bardwell's descriptions were more in depth than were Pinnock's, but Pinnock, because of modernization, was often easier to follow.  In The Practice of Painting, Bardwell described his palette layout as follows:

1.  Light Red Teint is made of Light Red and White:  It is the most kind and best conditioned of all Colours, for the general Ground of the Flesh.  With this Colour, and the Shade-Teint, we should make out all the Flesh, like Claro Obscuro, or Mezzotinto.  We should also remember, that this Colour will grow darker;  because it is in Nature too strong for the White;  therefore we should improve it;  that is, mix some Vermilion and White with it, in proportion to the Fairness of the Complexion:  And tho' it is thus mixed, yet I shall call it the Light-red Teint in all the Course of the Work;  because I would not have the Vermilion Teint confounded with it, as if there was no Difference. 
2.  Vermilion Teint is only Vermilion and White, mixed to a middle Teint:  It is the most brilliant Light-red that can be:  It agrees best with White, Light-red, and Yellow Teints.
3.  Carmine Teint is Carmine and White only, mixed to a middle Teint:  It is of all Colours the most beautiful Red that can be for the Cheeks and Lips:  It is one of the finishing Colours, and should never be used in the First Painting, but laid upon the finishing Colours, without mixing. 
4.  Rose Teint is made of the Red Shade and White, mixed to a middle Degree, or lighter:  It is one of the cleanest and most delicate Teints that can be used in the Flesh, for cleaning up heavy dirty Colours: and therefore, in changing, will sympathize and mix kindly. 
5.  Yellow Teint is often made of Naples Yellow and White;  but I make it of light Oker and White, which is a good working Colour.  Remember the Oker is too strong for the White;  therefore we should make a little Allowance in using it.  It follows the Light-red Teints, and should always be laid before the Blues.  If we lay too much of it, we may recover the Ground it was laid on with the Light-red Teints. 
6.  Blue Teint is made of Ultramarine and White, mixed to a lightish Azure:  It is a pleasant working Colour:  With it we should blend the Gradations.  It follows the Yellows;  and with them it makes the Greens;  and with the Red it produces the Purples.  No Colour is so proper for blending down, or softening the Lights into keeping. 
7.  Lead Teint is made of Ivory-Black and fine White, mixed to a middle Degree:  It is a fine retiring Colour;  and therefore is of great USe in the Gradations, and in the Eyes. 
8.  Green Teint is made of Prussian, light Oker, and White:  This Colour will dirty the Lights, and should be laid sparingly in the middle Teints.  It is most used in the Red Shadows, where they are too strong.  It is of a dirty antipathizing Nature. 
9.  Shade-Teint is made of Lake, Indian Red, Black, and White, mixed to a beautiful Murrey Colour of a middle Teint:  This is the best Colour for the general Ground of Shadows:  for which Reason I call it the Shade Teint:  It mixes with the Lights delightfully, and produces a pleasant clean Colour, a little incline to the redish Pearl.  As all the four Colours of its Composition are of a friendly sympathizing Nature, so consequently this will be the same;  and therefore may be easily changed, by the Addition of any other Colours. 
10.  Red Shade is nothing but Lake and a very little Indian Red:  It is a charming working Colour, and a good Glazer:  It strengthens the Shadows on the Shade-Teint; and receives, when it is wet, the Green and Blue Teints agreeably.  It is a good Ground for dark Shadows. 
11.  Warm Shade is made of Lake and Brown Pink, mixed to a middle Degree:  It is a fine Colour for strengthening the Shadows on the Shade-Teint, when they are wet or dry.  We must take care that it does not touch the Lights, because they will mix of a dirty Snuff-Colour;  and therefore should be softened with a tender cold Teint. 
12  Dark Shade is made of Ivory-Black and a little Indian Red only.  This Colour mixes very kindly with the Red Shade, and sympathizes agreeably with the middle Teints in the Dead-Colouring.  It is a charming glazing Colour for the Eye-brows and darkest Shadows.  It is of all the most excellent Shadow-Colour, and one of the finest working Colours we have. 

First Painting 
The Colours and Teints that are necessary for the First Painting of the Flesh. 
 1.  Fine White
 2.  Light Oker and its two Teints
 3.  Light Red and its two Teints
 4.  Vermilion and its Teint.
 5.  A Teint made of Lake, Vermilion, and White.
 6.  Rose Teint.
 7.  Blue Teint.
 8.  Lead Teint.
 9.  Green Teint.
10.  Half-shade Teint - is made of Indian Red, and White.
11.  Shade Teint.
12.  Red Shade.
13.  Warm Shade. 
The Finishing Palette for a fine Complexion requires six more;  viz.  Carmine and its Teint, Lake, Brown Pink, Ivory-Black, and Prussian Blue.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Illustration Magazine #34

A few days ago I received the latest installment of Illustration Magazine in the mail, and it has quickly become one of my favorite issues (Issue #20, dedicated to Andrew Loomis is still top on my list, but this runs a close second).  Featured in this edition is a 57 page article on artist Tom Lovell, decorated with 67 images of his beautiful artwork.  Though I had probably seen a few illustrations of his when I was younger, I was not fully aware of Lovell's talent until I came across Don Hedgepeth's and Walt Reed's book, The Art of Tom Lovell: An Invitation to History when it was published in 1993.  His paintings blow me away as much now as they did the first time I laid eyes on them, and this magazine issue makes a great supplement to the book, the former showcasing more of Lovell's illustrations, while the latter has a stronger focus on the artist's Western paintings.

Random Inspiration: William Robinson Leigh (1866-1955)

William Robinson Leigh  -  Sophie Hunter Colston (1896) -  oil on canvas  72³⁄₈ X 40⁷⁄₈ in.

In each museum I frequent, I develop "friends" in the permanent collection.  These are the works that, if I do not visit with them, my trip to the museum feels incomplete.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., I have many of these "friends."  There are works by John Singer Sargent, Abbott Handerson Thayer, John White Alexander, Cecilia Beaux, Edmund Tarbell, Albert Herter, William Sergeant Kendall, and Thomas Wilmer Dewing, that I look for each time I call on the gallery.

But there is one other painting that stands out to me in the Museum's collection, one that I always look forward to seeing.  It is the portrait of Sophie Hunter Colston by artist William Robinson Leigh.  The crispness of the work is brilliant, and I was quite struck with it when first I saw it, but when I sought out more paintings by this then-new-to-me artist, I was surprised to find that Leigh did few portraits and was instead better know for his paintings of the American West.

Though William Robinson Leigh's sustained success as a painter did not come until he was already in his seventies, his was not a case of, "nice guys finish last."  By accounts, he was a thoroughly unlikeable character, who would have reached prominence at a younger age had he not been so difficult to be around.  He was a racist, and a bigot, and often inflated his self-importance, boasting to others of his greatness as a painter, author, actor, poet, philosopher, and explorer.¹  In many ways, it seems a shame that so much actual talent was bestowed upon so base a man.

Both of his parents were members of the Southern Aristocracy, but by the time William was born, September 23, 1866, the family's once opulent estate in West Virginia had been destroyed by the Civil War.  They were destitute, and life was not easy for young William, whom the family came to consider as the "fool with a faculty for drawing."² His mother, too proud to send William to public school, and too impoverished to send him to a private school, had the boy educated, poorly, at home.  His father, a former naval officer who only wedded William's mother because she initially brought money to the marriage, often beat the boy for displaying laziness and hostility.³  Not surprisingly, William preferred the company of the farm animals to that of his relatives, and it could be that during his time with the farm creatures, he first began his education as an artist, studying the animals which would become a strong aspect of his future artworks.

At the age of 14, perhaps as an act of pity, an uncle brought William to Baltimore and paid for the young man's tuition to the Maryland School of Art.  There Leigh studied under watercolorist Hugh Newell, who saw promise in the boy's work.  With financial supplements from collector W.W. Corcoran, who also noticed Leigh's skill, and with money earned as a teaching assistant, Leigh continued his studies in Maryland for three years.  At 16, Newell encouraged Leigh to continue his studies in Europe, where all Americans went to be thoroughly trained.

Leigh wanted to study in Paris, as Newell had done, but at $900 a year, the price was prohibitive.  Instead, he travelled to Munich, where he could attend the Royal Academy of Fine Arts for $300 a year, a fee another uncle was willing to pay for the teenager.  The training in Germany was more "stiffly realistic"⁴ than Leigh would have preferred, but the education was good, and he gained much from his 13 hours of drawing each day, six days a week.

After three years in Munich, Leigh's family, who still considered William to be a "freak,"⁵ were no longer able or willing to support the young man in his education.  Leigh was encouraged to quit, but he refused to speed up his studies or curtail his spending.  He was prepared to return home to find a teaching position, and save money for another year in Germany, but instead he secured work as a panoramist and was able to stay longer at the Royal Academy.

In 1896, after more than twelve years in Germany, Leigh finally returned to America, ready to make his mark.  Unfortunately for the thirty-year-old, America was not interested in a painter who was, "long on drawing ability, draftsmanship, masterful manipulation of paint, and excessive detailing, but short on imagination and feeling."⁶

With only $40 in his pocket, and trying to make it in New York City, Leigh was forced to seek out illustration work, something he hoped he would never have to do.  At Scribner's Magazine, he was able to secure work at $100 a page, a top rate for the time.  His attention to detail earned him the label "Buttons and Shoestrings,"⁷ and as such work was more welcome in illustration, he continued in the field for several more years.

Albert Groll, a former fellow student in Munich, approached Leigh in 1906 and invited him on a trip to Laguna, New Mexico, to paint the pueblo there.  Leigh, tired of illustration, newly divorced, and unable to obtain portrait commissions, was looking for a change.  He convinced the Santa Fe Railroad to transport him out West in exchange for a painting of the Grand Canyon, and he set out to find fresh new subject matter for his paintings.

"At last," exclaimed Leigh when he reached Laguna, "I was in a land where I was to prove whether I was fit or just a dunderhead!'  Newly inspired, Leigh threw himself into his paintings of the American Frontier, and continued working in the genre despite not finding a New York dealer for these paintings until 1913. Critics remained unfriendly, however, reviling Leigh as a "photography-oriented illustrator with a school boy's romantic vision of the West."⁸  Many of these reviewers, unfamiliar with the Southwest, also accused this "Sagebrush Rembrandt" of fabricating the colors in his paintings, not believing such pinks, yellows, reds, and purples actually existed in nature.

During War War I, Leigh once again found himself without commissions.  He sought acting work, but had no luck there either.  Eventually, he became a painter of theatrical backdrops.

In 1921, Leigh remarried.  His second wife, Ethel Traphagen (1882-1963), was a fashion illustrator, and together, the two founded, in 1923, the Traphagen School of Design in New York City.

Leigh was teaching a class in illustration at the Traphagen School in 1925 when he heard that the American Museum of Natural History was seeking an artist to join conservationist Carl Akeley on an expedition to Africa.  Leigh obtained the position, and upon his return, was retained as supervisor of habitat painting in the Akeley African Hall from 1932 to 1935.  In 1936, the Hall opened, and is still considered one of the greatest museum displays in the world.

Despite never learning to spell properly, it was during this period that Leigh wrote and published several books.  The first of these was a drama claiming that Sir Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays.  The second, The Western Pony, was published in 1933, and was one of the best books of the year.  The third book was about his trips to Africa with the Museum of Natural History, and it became a best seller.⁹

Leigh was finally financially able to return to painting full time in 1938, and six years later, at the age of 78, he was being hailed as "the last great painter of the Old West."¹⁰  After outliving his contemporaries Frederic Remington (1861-1909) and Charles Russell (1864-1926), William Robinson Leigh was at last getting attention for his Western paintings.  A solo exhibition of his work in 1944 was covered by 200 newspapers, and the detailed realism and staid compositions in his art that once hindered his career, were now selling points.  One reviewer wrote that in Leigh's paintings, there was "no freakishness, no Freudian impulses wild-brushed for effete critics."¹¹  Another wrote, "His principal admirers are not critics but western enthusiasts and anthropologists.  They like his photographic realism and painstaking authenticity."¹²  After World War II, the popularity of Western Art increased, and Leigh did his best to keep up with demand.

By 1955, Leigh's output had dropped to one painting every couple of months, far short of the 32 paintings he produced in 1950 when he was 84.  On March 11th, he worked all day in his 57th Street studio in New York City¹², then headed to bed, where he died in his sleep.  He was 88 years old.

¹ Fabian, Daniel, Harold Samuels, Joan Samuels, and Peggy Samuels, Techniques of the Artists of the American West, (The Wellfleet Press, Secaucus, NJ, 1990), p. 141.
² idem.
³ idem.
⁴ ibid., p. 142.
⁵ idem.
⁶ idem.
⁷ idem.
⁸ ibid., p. 143
⁹ idem.
¹⁰ idem.
¹¹ ibid., p. 144.
¹² idem.