In the early 1930s, Clare Leighton began work on a sequence of wood engravings depicting traditional farming in England over the course of a calendar year. The country was in the grips of the Great Depression. Unemployment had doubled. Hunger marches were beginning to spread through towns and cities. Machines were replacing men and women on the land. Already established as one of the most innovative engravers of her time, Clare Leighton was encouraged to write a series of sketches to accompany the twelve engravings she produced. The Farmer's Year was the result, published in 1933 to great acclaim in Britain and North America, running to three impressions by February 1934. The Farmer's Year was the first book Clare Leighton wrote, engraved and designed. It is still her most celebrated work, and its epic and beautiful vision of rural England has become a unique record of the toil and triumphs of farm labourers before the Second World War changed the face of Britain forever.
Clare Leighton (1898-1989) was born in London and studied at Brighton, Slade and Central schools of art. Travel in Europe nurtured an empathy for rural workers and their culture, reﬂected in much of her work. An accomplished writer, designer and artist, she is best known as a wood engraver who inspired a revival of the craft in Britain and North America. She illustrated books by Thomas Hardy, Gilbert White and Henry David Thoreau, as well as her own Four Hedges (also published by Little Toller), Country Matters, The Farmer’s Year and Southern Harvest. Her work is held in collections around the world, including the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago.