174 Scouting the Crags

Winning Bid Undisclosed
This item SOLD at 2015 Apr 11 @ 14:01UTC-7 : PDT/MST
Category Western Americana
Auction Currency USD
Start Price NA
Estimated at 200,000.00 - 400,000.00 USD
Scouting the Crags
Artist: Leigh, William R.Date of Birth: 1866-1955
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 40 x 34 inches
Signed: Signed lower right and dated 1948

In 1910, dead broke and feeling disillusioned, Leigh was invited by a friend, Wyoming taxidermist Will Richard, to accompany him on a hunting and collecting trip in the mountains near Cody. Leigh took to the pack hunting life; he would light out and head up from time to time throughout his life. He would also paint a number of magnificent scenes featuring hunters and pack horses on the narrow trails that wind through the peaks in the West. The subject seems to have been of special interest to the artist in the 1940ÕsÑperhaps contemplating these places above and away from the turmoil of the Second World War provided him some solaceÑand he painted a number of particularly fine high country canvases during this decade, including Scouting the Crags.
From lower right to upper left, the master moves your eye upwards along a narrow path that hugs the side of one of the many Rocky Mountain summits that undulate across the canvas. Isolated on a jutting rock by the pack horses, the cowboy hunterÕs stanceÑnot to mention his woolly chaps, a romantic touch that Leigh never could helpÑsuggests confidence in his tracking abilities. To know a place like this, to really know it, is a form of ownership having nothing to do with deedsÑ in terms of titles and contractsÑand everything to do with deedsÑin terms of things done and the tales told about them. What we see in Scouting the Crags isnÕt the emptiness of loneliness, itÕs the romance of solitude, with nothing more than two spirited horses and scrambling mountain sheep, with nothing more than eagles and thoughts that skim from peak to peak on the lilac haze that rises from the valleys. Nothing more, because nothing more is needed. William Robinson Leigh was a struggling young realist painter in a New York that had begun to delight in the likes of Cezanne when he met the grand old artist of the American West, Thomas Moran. Moran prodded Leigh to light out and seek the ÒAmericanÓ in American art. In 1906, newly divorced and dead broke, Leigh accompanied his artist friend Albert Groll on a journey to Arizona and New Mexico. The canyons and native peoples that dwelled there opened LeighÕs eyes. These unspoiled people in this unspoiled land were truly worthy, in his eyes, of his philosophy and art.Though Leigh would work for many years painting the diorama backdrops in the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and though he would travel widelyÑto Africa especiallyÑthe expanse and beauty of the American West would infuse his work with light, color and the motionÑand emotionÑof life.