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 Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach  (1878 - 1960)



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Lived/Active: Delaware      Known for: portrait, sea-landscape, illustrator

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Ethel Pennewell Brown is primarily known as Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach

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Ad Code: 3
Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach
from Auction House Records.
Christmas Cactus and Freesia
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Wilmington, Delaware where she spent much of her life, Ethel Leach was known as the dean of women artists in Delaware during the first half of the twentieth century. She gained much respect on the East Coast for a lengthy career that included illustration, interiors scenes, landscapes, portraits, and floral depictions. For the last thirty years of her life, she and her husband, Will Leach, were the mainstays of the artist colony at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

She grew up in rural settings in a family where her father was a doctor and she was raised by a stepmother. She had early art talent, and in 1894 enrolled in the Clawson S. Hammitt School of Art in Wilmington, where she got classical training, did plein-air painting, and received much encouragement from her peers and teachers.

From October, 1899, she studied at the Art Students League in New York but had to take a year off from 1902 to 1903 because of typhoid fever. During her years in New York, she received little support from her family, but developed a thriving career. However, she was disfigured by scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that caused her pain but did not inhabit her career.

After 1901, she turned primarily to illustration work to earn money, and in 1903, returned to Wilmington where she studied with Howard Pyle, then America's most noted illustrator. Generally he disliked women students, thinking they were not professional enough, but she made enough of a positive impression that he accepted her into his inner circle. In 1907, she also began doing portraits, having met prominent people through an aunt.

In 1910, Howard Pyle took his family to Europe and asked Leach and Olive Rush to occupy his studio for two years in Wilmington at a modest rent. This was a happy time for her, but the good times ended after a year with the sudden death of Pyle in Florence in 1911. After that, she went to Europe and arrived in Paris on December 17, 1912, lived in the American Art Students Club, and in the village of Senlis. Her work was accepted for the Paris Salon and she earned other recognition including acceptance into the International Union of Beaux-Arts and Letters.

She resumed life in Wilmington in 1913 where she circulated among artists, many of them students of Pyle's, and also painted in Jackson, Mississippi on trips with an aunt from whom she later inherited enough money to be financially independent.

At age forty-four, she married artist Will Leach, and they settled in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware but traveled to Florida where she did much painting of tropical plants. They also painted at Gloucester, Massachusetts, and she did children's book illustrations before again taking up portraiture, which she did from 1920 and which supported the couple through the Depression. In Rehoboth Beach, she established Annual Summer Art Exhibitions and oversaw them for thirty years.

She was an active artist into her eighties and died on December 30, 1959.

Jann Haynes Gilmore, 'Ethel P.B. Leach: Her Life and Work', "American Art Review", June 1999
Jann Haynes Gilmore, 'Delaware Women Artists', "American Art Review", April 2002
Periodical Reference: Special issue devoted to the artist:

Gilmore, Janice Haynes, "Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach : Delaware Artist of Time,
Place and Season", Wilmington, Delaware : Historical Society of Delaware, 1998-99.
87-266pp. General Note: Special issue of "Delaware History", vol. XXVIII, no. 2-3 (1998-99).

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