William Leigh

(1866-1955)

William Leigh studied at the Maryland Institute from 1880-83 before entering the Royal Academy of Munich. Leigh spent 12 years at the Academy despite levels of poverty. In 1896 he began his career in art as an illustrator in New York City. He truly aspired to create Western paintings and took his first trip out West in 1906. He was commissioned by the Santa Fe Railroad Company to paint the Grand Canyon as well as five other scenes. Shortly thereafter he returned to NYC; however he continued to paint Westerns and scenes of Virginia. Leigh visited Africa in preparation for a background painting for the African Hall of the American Museum of Natural History and it is still on view today. He usually began his work with detailed charcoal sketches with the most distant objects first such as sky and horizon. Leigh used bright color and clear lighting and many of his illustrations were featured in Scribner's and Collier's. Leigh founded the Trap Hagen School of Fashion in NYC with his wife Ethel. Leigh died in 1955.