William Robinson Leigh (1866-1955)
William Robinson Leigh (1866-1955)

The Sand Storm

William Robinson Leigh (1866-1955)
The Sand Storm
signed and dated 'W.R. Leigh 1913' (lower left)
oil on canvas
111/8 x 171/8 in. (28.3 x 43.5 cm.)
Grand Central Art Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, 1956.
June DuBois, W.R. Leigh: The Definitive Illustrated Biography, Kansas City, Kansas, 1977, pp. 90-91 and cover, illustrated
M. Hal Sussmann, "California Collections: Kay Haley collects artists whose California roots complement her own Southern California heritage," Southwest Art Magazine, June 1988, pp. 28 and 30, illustrated
Palm Springs, California, Palm Springs Desert Museum, The West as Art: Changing Perceptions of Western Art in California, February-May 1982
San Buenaventura, California, Ventura County Museum of History and Art, Art of the American West from County Collections, June-August 1985, p. 4

Lot Essay

The Sand Storm, painted by William Robinson Leigh in 1913, depicts a Navajo on horseback racing against a swirling red sandstorm. One year earlier, Leigh traveled to Ganado, Arizona at the invitation of Juan Lorenzo Hubbell, owner of a prosperous trading post there. Hubbell wrote to Leigh, "It will be a great pleasure for me to entertain you while at Ganado and to from there send you to any locality that you may desire. I do not think that you can go any place in white you can have so many Indians and other things of interest to paint within a short distance of Ganado." (as quoted in June DuBois, W.R. Leigh: The Definitive Illustrated Biography, Kansas City, Missouri, 1977, p. 88) Leigh spent nearly every summer between 1912 and 1926 in the region around Ganado painting the daily lives of the Native peoples as accurately as possible in order to capture the romance of the old west in his work.

He first traveled to the west in 1906 and recorded his initial reactions to this new world: " . . . eager to waste no time whatever; I saw that I needed studies of everything, the vegetation, the rocks, the plains, the mesas, the sky, the Indians and their dwellings; scores of studies-dependable studies. I saw that I must so far as possible be a sponge; soak up everything I saw; must know the manners and customs of the people and their employments-in short, absorb all that it was humanly possible to absorb. I started in to paint, paint, paint!" (as quoted in D. Duane Cummins, William Robinson Leigh: Western Artist, Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1980, p. 88) His attention to accurate detail is particularly evident in the The Sand Storm where Leigh juxtaposes a carefully painted Indian and horse against a wall of swirling sand. With their heads down, the figure and horse strain to out-run a quickly approaching storm. Through the course of this period of Leigh's work, he gained the friendship and respect of the Indians of the Southwest, which translated into a passionate portrayal of realistic events such as this dramatic storm.