LOT 315

William R. Leigh


Parting Pals

MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

DIMENSIONS: 30 x 25 inches

Signed lower right


SOLD FOR: $140,400.00

Including Buyers Premium

Additional Information

Paul Beitler, California, 1975
Addison Rowe Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
Mongerson Gallery, Chicago, IL
Paul Butler, ca. 1975 (acquired from the above)
By descent to the present owner
Sotheby’s, New York, NY, 2019

William R. Leigh is a singular force in Western art who has few, if any, artists worthy of comparison. His work is so uniquely his own that it often defies category, from his exaggerated movements and the poses of his horses and figures, to his impressionistic paint quality that makes every square inch of a painting active and alive. Another aspect that sets his work apart is his action, which can be seen in Parting Pals, as a rider disappears from view atop a bucking horse. The painting hides the rider’s face, and thus his shame, as the flailing beast bests him in a moment frozen in defeat.

Leigh was conscious of movement and how it could be painted in his work. It was clearly something he thought a great deal about, and attempted on many occasions to explain to students, critics and fans of his work. “Since painting is an art, its mission to produce impressions; only in scientific books to convey mathematical facts. Two illustrations will make my meaning clear: Let us suppose an artist painting an express train moving at a mile a minute. The smoke of the engine would be streaming back in a flat line as taken by the camera. But in the instantaneous photograph, every spoke in the wheels of the engine would be clear and sharp, as if the machine were standing still. The painter, however, must show these spokes as a blur, otherwise he would totally destroy the impression of movement he wanted to suggest,” Leigh explained. “From the point of view of the observer, he would be exactly right, since no human eye could see anything but a blur.
Now let us suppose the same painter, picturing a hummingbird hovering over a flower. To the eye, the wings of the bird would be quite as much a blur as the spokes of the wheel, yet so painted they would not convey the idea of motion, but merely of a smeared or unfinished picture. The only thing the painter can do to give the impression of the bird is to paint the wings out in detail, exactly the opposite procedure to that involving the wheel. Why one riddle with two answers? The reason is that the painter must convey the impression of truth as best he can; sanity, knowledge, taste, common sense are the guides which he must follow, since they are the only guides.”


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Please note that the first unframed photo is most accurate for color. Framed photographs are to show the frame and are not color corrected to the painting.

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