© The Artist's Estate
 
William John Leech, Irish, 1881-1968
Title: A Convent Garden, Brittany
Date: c.1913
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
132 x 106 cm
Signed: lower right: Leech
Credit Line: Presented, Mrs M. Botterell, 1952
Object Number: NGI.1245
DescriptionIn this picture, Leech’s first wife Elizabeth poses as a novice of the Soeurs du Saint-Esprit, looking up contemplatively from her prayer book, as nuns from the same order, their heads bowed in prayer, process through the shadows in the background. The setting is the walled garden of the nuns’ hospital and convent in Concarneau, in which Leech had convalesced in 1904, having contracted typhoid fever. Elizabeth wears the Breton bridal costume traditionally donned by novices on the day they took their final vows.
The painting reflects an interest in the religious devotion of the Breton community that Leech shared with many visiting artists, but also the artist’s particular love of sunlight and pattern. Leech shows admirable confidence in painting with vigour and freedom on such a large scale, and in managing a complex palette of, among other colours, acid greens, bright yellows, subtle pinks and various shades of white. He displays particular skill in suggesting Elizabeth’s slim, elegant form under the delicate folds of her dress. Born into a prosperous professional family, Leech attended the Royal Hibernian Academy Schools, where he was a pupil of Walter Osborne. like many Irish painters before him, he studied and exhibited in Paris before travelling further afield in France. He visited Concarneau on several occasions between 1903 and 1917.

March 2016


ProvenancePurchased from the Artist by Percy Botterell, c. 1922; bequeathed to his wife, May Botterell; presented, Mrs M. Botterell, 1952
Exhibition HistorySalon des Artistes Français, Paris, 1913

Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1921

Exposition d'Art Irlandais, Brussels, 1930

The Irish Impressionists: Irish Artists in France and Belgium 1850-1914, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 9 October - 18 November 1984; Ulster Museum, Belfast, 1 February - 10 March 1985

William John Leech: An Irish Painter Abroad, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 23 October - 15 December 1996; Musée des Beaux Arts, Quimper, 10 January - 10 March 1997; Ulster Museum, Belfast, 28 March - 22 June 1997

Lines of Vision. Irish Writers at the National Gallery of Ireland, 8 October 2014 —12 April 2015
Label TextIn this picture, Leech’s first wife Elizabeth, posing as a novice of the Soeurs du Saint-Esprit, looks up from her prayer book as nuns from the same order process in the background. She wears the Breton bridal costume traditionally donned by novices on the day they took their final vows. The setting is the walled garden of the nuns’ hospital and convent in Concarneau, in which Leech had convalesced in 1904. The painting reflects an interest in the religious devotion of the Breton community that Leech shared with many visiting artists, but also the artist’s love of sunlight and pattern.