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Leigh history

November 10, 1997

Leigh history

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARLOWE, W.Va. - A contemporary of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, his works grace museums in this country and Europe, but William Robinson Leigh may be better known in Einsiedeln, Switzerland, than in Berkeley County.

Leigh was born in 1866 at Maidstone, a plantation west of Marlowe, and died in 1955.

The plantation failed after the Civil War and the family moved to Martinsburg, W.Va.

A relative's loan allowed him to attend the Maryland Institute in Baltimore when he was 14, said Hal Dunham, a member of the board of directors of a foundation that bears Leigh's name. Two years later, Leigh was teaching there.

Leigh studied in Munich, Germany, and painted six cycloramas in Europe. Dunham said Leigh's 49-by-492-foot "Crucifixion of Christ at Jerusalem" remains a major attraction in Einsiedeln.

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As the Old West disappeared at the turn of the century, Leigh began preserving it on canvas. His work showed European and American influences in pieces such as "The Enchanted Mesa" and "Navajo Fire Dance."

Leigh's work hangs in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and other major museums, particularly in the West, Dunham said.

The Boarman Arts Center in Martinsburg and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts also have examples of Leigh's work, Dunham said.

"He lived here until he was 12 years old," Dunham said last week outside Maidstone.

"We did not know of him 'til we moved here, either," said Hal Dunham. Now he and his wife Lyn are on the board of directors of a foundation that bears Leigh's name.

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