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 Hilton Leech  (1906 - 1969)

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Lived/Active: New York/Florida/Connecticut/Montana      Known for: landscape

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Ad Code: 3
Hilton Leech
Hidden Lake
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was submitted in August of 2006 by Lee Corbino:                                       

HILTON LEECH 1906-1969

Hilton Leech was a master watercolorist.  He was inventive and experimented with a variety of mediums and combined them with watercolor to advance the medium of watercolor beyond the purist esthetic.

Leech mixed the rich quality of casein glazed with colored inks thus creating a range of textures. Then redefining opaqueness and transparency with a combination of stencils, watercolor and liquid plastics.

Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1906, Hilton Leech was 20 before he made up his mind to become an artist.  He knew he liked to draw and paint and had won a few local contests, also painting in oil early on in his career.  His first love was nature and combined with his artistic aptitudes he decided to enroll in the Grand Central Art School and later studied lithography at the Art Students League.

His association with his instructors Arshile Gorky and George Pearce Ennis at the Grand Central Art School moved his career forward as Mr. Ennis hired him as his assistant.  In 1931, they came to Sarasota to teach at the new Ringling Art School.   Later, Ennis returned to New York and Leech continued to teach during the winter season at the Ringling School of Art and Design from 1931-36 and again from 1939-1945.  In the summer Leech had his own school in Amagansett, Long Island.

Leech accepted two WPA post office murals commissions: "Allegory of Chattanooga" in the Chattanooga Post Office and Courthouse 1937 and "Removal of the County Seat from Daphne to Bay Minette" Alabama, completed in 1939.
After the war, Leech opened his own school in Sarasota, the Amagansett Art School on Hillview St. and in 1960 moved the school into their new Sarasota School of Architecture building designed by Jack West.  Altogether, his time in Sarasota marks the most active period in his painting.

During the summers, Leech and his wife Canadian painter Dorothy Sherman traveled and painted extensively in the wilderness of the western United States, during fishing trips in Canada and explored the tropical scenery of Central America.  Together, they collaborated on large oil paintings of circus sideshow people commissioned by the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. Unfortunately the paintings were destroyed in 1944 by the circus-tent fire in Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1957, the Leeches bought a summer residence in Virginia City, Montana where he died suddenly in 1969.  The book he had been working on for Van Nostrand publishers before his death The Joys of Watercolor was completed by his student and accomplished watercolorist Emily Holmes in 1972.

Leech won the American Watercolor Society purchase prize, the Audubon Society of Artists Casein Award, the Morse Medal at the National Academy of Design, the Knickerbocker Artists Medal of Honor and Gold Medal of Honor, the Allied Artists Association, New York.

He was a member of the American Watercolor Society, the American Federation of Art, the Salmagundi Club, the Florida Artist Group and Watercolor US

Selected Museum and Public collections:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; High Museum, Atlanta, GA; Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Norton Museum, West Palm Beach, FL; The Contemporary Art Collection at the University of Florida, Tallahassee, FL; Museum of Art, Hickory, NC; The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Sarasota, FL; The Cooperstown Art Association, Cooperstown, NY; The Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Indianapolis Museum, Indianapolis, IN; Tides Institute & Museum of Art, Eastport, ME; Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY; Show Folks of Sarasota, FL; Florida Maritime Museum of Cortez, FL; Richmond Art Museum, Richmond, IN


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