Exhibition catalogues should be written after exhibitions. No amount of study beforehand can replace the experience of examining the works together in a gallery setting. In that situation, comparisons are forced upon the viewer; subtle similarities emerge that can't be seen in reproduction and with them strengths and deficiencies of the art.
This is particularly important in the case of A. C. Leighton. Although he died only 25 years ago, his work today presents more difficulties to the curator and historian than does the work of many artists dead a hundred years and more. Leighton seldom dated his work, enjoyed few sales to public institutions during his lifetime, had few friends among artists, and upon his death left little correspondence and few useful papers.
While his widow, Barbara, established the foundation which bears his name in 1972, her own death in 1987 closed another door. The Leighton scholar today is left with one massive problem to which most others relate, that of establishing a meaningful chronology of his work.
The works in this exhibition have been selected primarily from the Leighton Foundation and whyte Museum collections as well as from many private and public collections. I have examined records graciously provided by the widows of his former art dealers, Grace Turner (J. D. Turner, Canadian Art Galleries) and Carol Pain (George Pain, Gainsborough Galleries) as well as extensive biographical material provided by Nancy Townshend and Peter Jekill. Unfortunately, their records and the incomplete inventories at the Leighton Foundation are difficult to relate to existing pictures. They suggest that many paintings exist which I haven't yet seen.
My chronology is highly speculative based on (a) known dates (b) previously ascribed dates, and (c) assumptions deriving from characteristics of style in relation to works of known date, the latter supported whenever possible by other evidence. works which resist any of these methods are listed at the end. I have assumed that most watercolours left in the estate upon Leighton's death and those consigned by Leighton to Calgary dealers in the '50s and '60s belong to his post-war period.