Clare Leighton (1935; Little Toller, 2010)
Recommended by Martin Stott
Clare Leighton is remembered as one of the finest wood engravers of the twentieth century. Having made her name with The Farmer’s Year (published in 1933), the publication of Four Hedges in 1935 established her as an engraver as well as a writer. Her skill as a chronicler of nature, the seasons, and of place (the half acre in the Buckinghamshire Chilterns that she and her partner, the radical journalist Noel Brailsford, transformed into a garden in the early 1930s) is on full display in this luminous work structured around the twelve months of the year. By observing the seasonal changes in their garden she grew familiar with its wildlife and character, forming a bond that fed her work as an artist. The book is illustrated with over eighty of her wood engravings, each one a microcosm of the landscape that encompasses them. Together, prose and engravings combine to give a sense of an earth that is full of wonder and joy.