114.9 cm x 97.2 cm (45 1/4 in. x 38 1/4 in.)
William Robinson Leigh
(Falling Waters, West Virginia, 1866 - 1955, New York)
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of C.R. Smith, 1984
William Robinson Leigh began his career as a magazine and book illustrator, but on the advice of the well-respected landscape painter Thomas Moran, he switched to oil paintings of the American landscape and experience. This vibrant work is one of a series of images that Leigh painted of cowboys on galloping horses. Quickly painted and action-packed, it handily conveys the heat and dust, the straining effort of the horse, and the composure and grace of its rider.
Leigh prided himself on the authentic details of the clothes and gear that he depicted. Based in midtown Manhattan, he would travel every summer to the Southwest to sketch, study, photograph, and collect artifacts that later figured prominently in his studio-made works.
He noted in The Western Pony, a book that he wrote and illustrated in 1933: “I find in the West the truely [sic] typical and distinctively American motifs, a grandeur in natural surroundings, a dramatic simplicity in life which can be found nowhere else. In that life, in those surroundings—marvelously varied and abundant—the horse plays a major role.”