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Kathryn Leighton (1875-1952)

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Born in Plainfield, New Hampshire, Kathryn Leighton became a celebrated Indian portrait and landscape painter.

She attended Kimball Union Academy near Plainfield and graduated in 1900 from the Massachusetts Normal Art School. That same year, she married attorney Edward Leighton, and then studied in Paris and Vienna.

In 1910, she and her husband moved to Los Angeles where she studied at the Stickney School of Art in Pasadena. Doing floral still life and landscapes, she repeatedly depicted her favorite subject, which was the desert in bloom. Having been told about Glacier National Park by Charles Russell, she spent much time in that region where she created panoramic landscapes. In 1926, the Great Northern Railway purchased all of her Glacier Park paintings of that year.

In 1918, she began to paint American Indian portraits, many of them signed by the sitter, and this endeavor brought her international recognition. In 1926, Russell introduced her to the Blackfeet Indians who adopted her into their tribe after she had spent several summers with them painting portraits of the old chiefs and other prominent members of the tribe. She did twenty-two paintings of Blackfeet elders for The Great Northern Railway, whose personnel used them in lecture series about the disintegration of Indian cultural traditions.

In 1929, she did a tour of Europe and the Eastern United States with her paintings, and gained widespread recognition for her artistic skill and the educational aspects of her work.

She also painted the Sioux and Cherokee in Oklahoma and did other Indian portraits from her studio in Los Angeles. These portraits, totally about 700, remain a valuable, lasting historical record of their customs, clothing and lore.



Source: Edan Hughes


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