Crawford Art Gallerypermanent collection

Avenue de l'Observatoire, Paris
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Avenue de l'Observatoire, Paris
Irish School
oil on board
37.9 x 46.0cm


Acquired 1959

William Leech RHA
Irish School

Son of the regius professor of law at Trinity College, William Leech was born in Dublin in 1881. After attending St Columba´s school, followed by a year in Switzerland, he enrolled in 1899 at the Metropolitan School of Art. He also exhibited that year for the first time at the Royal Hibernian Academy, showing a painting of a Swiss lake scene. Transferring to the Academy Schools in 1900, Leech was taught by Walter Osborne and the following year, like many Irish art students of the time, he traveled to Paris, enrolling at the Academie Julian, where he studied under Laurens. Two years later, Leech was at Concarneau, in Brittany, painting mainly interiors and harbour scenes. He used dark tones, in compositions where calm horizontals contrast with strong diagonals and verticals. In 1907 he exhibited at the Leinster Hall in Dublin, with two fellow students from the Academie Julien, Constance Gore-Booth and Casimir Dunin Markiewicz. Around 1908, a new sense of light and colour entered Leech´s work, and his exhibitions in London, such as that at the Goupil Gallery in 1912, were well received. He was elected a member of the RHA in 1910, the same year he and his parents moved to London. In the decades following, while living mainly in England and the South of France, and rarely returned to Ireland, Leech continued to exhibit at the RHA.

Although Leech established a considerable reputation early on in his career, he was not financially successful. He often made the frames for his paintings himself, and lived a somewhat reclusive existence. In 1953 he was married a second time, to May Botterell, and set up a studio in Surrey. He died after falling from a railway bridge in Surrey in 1968.