Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


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.


  1. What a beautiful print - shame you didn't get it. The snow has stopped again here but I'm sure there's lots more up there!

  2. Can you print a copy of that picture and hang it on your wall? It's very evocative, I can understand why you like it.

    We are in a white world too, but not too much yet...

  3. That reminds me of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' - and very topical too! Just woke up to several inches of snow this mornning.

  4. We're in deep too, in East Yorkshire. Snuggling up and browsing on-line sounds just the job!

  5. Lovely - and timely. I have a book or two illustrated by her, what a talent, glad that she's being recognised, although I'm sorry that meant you didn't get the lot ;(


  6. Ooo! We love Claire Leighton's work - haven't seen that one before though - very evocative.

    It just keeps on snowing here, but we're safely indoors with a cuppa and some slabs of chocolate gingerbread!

  7. what do the undergardeners think of the snow?

  8. I love the print you can feel the cold snow around the buildings, I think london could do with some snow shovellers today.
    One of the things that I wanted to do during my year of maternity leave was to go to an auction and buy something, I never managed it. Maybe I will one day, I'm scared I could get carried away if I fell in love with something! You obviously know what your doing.

  9. Gina - I somehow doubted I would.

    Toffeeapple - I had hopes it was going to be a signed original! But it was a page torn from a 1930's book.

    Matron - good observation - that film came out in 1927, I bet she'd seen it.

    Veg'Heaven - it's what winters should be like :-)

    Joanna - lucky you! i think I'll be scouring the charity book shops now.

    Sarah & Jon - it's a powerful design. I hoped it was going to be a signed original print, but it looked as if it was a page from a book – so I only left a very low bid. I was shocked that it made £220! but maybe that's what even pages torn from books fetch these days.

    Petowskystone - be patient!

    Rhiannon - go for it, it's a great adrenaline buzz! If you think you may get carried away, set a price and take someone with you to stop you exceeding your limit! I can recommend Willingham Auctions, it's friendly and not intimidating.


  10. Gosh, that is a lot of money for a book page. It always makes me sad to think of her books being ripped up to sell the prints (although my Dad did buy one from ebay to do just that, and covered a wall of their house in the framed pages).


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