Clare Leighton (1898-1989):
Fishermen and Nets, circa 1950 (BPL 615)
Unmounted (ref: 5710)
Woodcut, signed and titled in pencil by artist's nephew
6 1/2 in. x 4 3/4 ins. (16.5 x 12 cm)
Fishermen and nets (Boston Public Library reference no. 615) was commissioned for The Marblehead Association in 1950. It dates to a period when Leighton was producing some of her most memorable prints, based around the subject of American rural life, much as she had done two decades earlier in her celebration of English rural life (The Farmers Year, 1933). Fishermen with nets is closely related to the images she produced in the same year for Wedgwood Plates with twelve designs of New England Industries and the twenty four illustrations produced for The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (published in a seven-volume series by Duke University Press from 1952 to 1964). Caroline Mesrobian Hickman has described Leighton's treatment of these subjects as follows:
Leighton's wood engravings portray the rural folk of North Carolina as they harvest, gather for social rites, and participate in recreational activities typical of their region. Appalachian mountain people join in communal events such as All Day Singing in the Mountains (plate 129), Piedmont tenant farmers prepare to dry their crop in Firing the Tobacco Barns (plate 133), while in Dragging Nets (plate 128), fishermen strain to pull in their harvest from the bracing waters of the Outer Banks. In her quest for accuracy, Leighton coordinated her sketching trips throughout the state with the harvesting of various crops, lived and worked with the agricultural people, and even located a still in the mountains for the engraving Moonshine Still (plate 135). The illustrations are not only a harvest of her creativity but also an accurate visual record of the customs and agricultural practices of a by-gone era.
We are grateful to Caroline Mesrobian Hickman and David Leighton for assistance.