A Wild Texas Steer, painted by William Robinson Leigh in the 1930s, depicts a cowboy skillfully and confidently riding a bull, his hat displaced and his bandana flopping freely. The scene depicts an ideal cowboy, a dramatic and courageous figure of the Old West.
Leigh at the end of his life was first and foremost an artist, the last great Western artist in the vein of Frederic Remington and Charles Marion Russell. He also, however, had many strong feelings about art, and wrote extensively. D. Duane Cummins tells us "the topic that received the greatest attention in his unpublished writings was art. He defined it as 'Nature seen through artistic eyes,' and as 'Nature translated with artistic discrimination.'" (William Robinson Leigh: Western Artist, Tulsa, 1980, p. 131) All human expression was, to Leigh, governed by adherence to truth, beauty, and integrity, and works "devoid of simple honest, professional mastery and worthiness of purpose" were without merit. (William Robinson Leigh: Western Artist, p. 131) His search for truth in art led him eventually to renown, and in 1955 Leigh received the highest honor of his esteemed career when he was elected "National Academician" at the National Academy of Design.
"Although his fidelity to accuracy and detail became legend, he was more a romantic than a realist. It brought gratification to him when he read in a French magazine of modern art, just six months before his death, that 'in our country [Leigh] would be compared to Delacroix whose dash and romanticism the American often shows.'" (Fred A. Myers, William Robinson Leigh: Western Artist, p. xvi)