Last week I scanned through the online catalogue for my favourite auction house in the hope of spotting another potential bargain. My eye stopped abruptly on a small framed picture – this one deserved attention. I wasn't aware that I knew the artist or the image, but there was something about it.
It's The Snow Shovellers by Clare Leighton. She was an illustrator and skilled wood engraver who worked both in England and America, most of her work shows people working in the countryside and she illustrated many books as well as posters for London transport and ceramics for Wedgewood. I love the strong silhouettes and sweeping curved lines which run through her work.
The Snow Shovellers was an image Clare Leighton engraved in 1929 while visiting New York. 1929 – the year of the Great Depression. She must have felt a world away from the English countryside she obviously loved and she captured a solemnity as the men clear the streets of snow and the buildings towering above them.
I couldn't get to the auction yesterday so left a cautious commission bid; my hunch that the picture was more interesting than the modest estimated price in the catalogue proved spot on . . . and I'm glad I wasn't there in person as the bidding soared way to a price I definitely couldn't afford! So I didn't buy The Snow Shovellers but I had an excuse to look at the work of a great illustrator and top printmaker.
The snow is falling outside my studio as I'm writing this – large slow flakes which are covering the courtyard with a blanket of white. Hope you're all warm and snug indoors.
Robert Macfarlane – Landmarks – published 5 March
36 minutes ago