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Finding Eva Leigh, A Harrogate Artist Rediscovered

Start Date

Saturday 11th May 2024 09:30 AM

End Date

Sunday 29th Sept 2024 17:00 PM

Location

Mercer Art Gallery, 31 Swan Rd, Harrogate, Yorkshire, HG12SA

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Faces from the 1920s to the '50s are captured in a series of exquisite portraits by a little-known Harrogate artist.

A group of drawings by Eva Leigh (1895 – 1981) came to light when the Mercer’s volunteer team inventoried the Harrogate Art Collection. They were entranced by the delicate studies, a few of which had been displayed in the past, but many were still unmounted and had never been exhibited. With very little record of the artist, work began to piece together her biography. The story emerged of a talented, yet now largely forgotten artist whose work reflects a particular moment in time.

Born in Bradford in 1895, Eva Walker showed early artistic talent, attending art school in her teens before moving to Harrogate. Adopting the name Eva Leigh - her paternal grandmother’s maiden name, she established herself as a portrait artist and undertook commissions from a wide variety of patrons, many of them visitors to Harrogate spa. Amongst others, her sitters included H.R.H. Princess Victoria, actor Jimmy Forbes, Caroline Ingilby from Ripley Castle, Sir John Barbirolli and the entire Hallé Orchestra.

Many of these fascinating portraits remain tantalisingly anonymous. There are still many aspects of Eva Leigh’s life and career to discover, it’s hoped that visitors to the exhibition may be able to add more pieces to the jigsaw. Her work certainly deserves wider attention, and her life story is an interesting touchstone to a particular time in Harrogate’s spa history.
This research and the accompanying exhibition have been made possible thanks to generous support from the Friends of the Mercer Art Gallery. .

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