Breadline, New York
36.1 cm x 25.4 cm (14 3/16 in. x 10 in.)
Clare Leighton (aka Clare Veronica Hope Leighton)
(London, England, 1898 - 1989, Woodbury, Connecticut)
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of the Still Water Foundation, 1992
Between the early 1920s in her native England and the mid-1970s in the United States, the country she adopted after 1939, Clare Leighton created nearly eight hundred wood engravings. These were primarily images for fine literary editions, illustrations of her own texts on nature and her craft, and independent prints showing human industry. All are characterized by brilliant technique and forceful personality, but above all they communicate a concern for the dignity of labor and the principles of democracy.
Fairly large in scale for a wood engraving of this time, Breadline is probably Leighton’s most famous image, though in many ways it is atypical of her production. Unlike her usual rural meditations, it concentrates on the effects of the Great Depression in the city. Furthermore, her contrast of the massive office towers, which usually celebrate the capitalistic might and social optimism of New York, with the never-ending line of hungry men, is uncharacteristically ironic and therefore compelling.
With a donation from the Still Water Foundation in 1987, the Blanton acquired a virtually complete collection of Leighton’s prints—most from the artist’s own archive—and thus became the most significant repository of her graphic work.