Barbara Leighton demonstrating weaving, Leighton Art Centre, Millarville

Barbara Leighton demonstrating weaving, Leighton Art Centre, Millarville

Barbara Leighton's Barleigh signature

Barbara Leighton's Barleigh signature

Barbara Leighton, (Barleigh), 1909 - 1986

Barbara Mary Harvey was born in Plymouth, England, in 1909. After her family moved to Alberta, she attended the Provincial Institute of Design and Technology in Calgary in 1930, where she met Alfred (A. C.) Leighton, her instructor and school’s director. They were married in the early morning of Sunday, May 31, 1931 and their honeymoon was spent packing into the Kananaskis area to paint.

After their marriage, Barbara Leighton continued to create woodblock prints and manage her husband’s career as well. She was elected to the Canadian Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers  in 1941, and belonged to the Alberta Society of Artists.

In 1941 the Leightons bought a farm in Chilliwack, BC and then built a house in Crescent Beach, near Vancouver. Barbara exhibited a colour woodblock print with the B.C. Society of Fine Arts in their annual exhibition in 1942. 

A.C. Leighton felt the West Coast was too temperate for a landscape painter, so they moved back to Alberta, buying a house in Calgary.

In 1960, A. C. Leighton’s health began to deteriorate rapidly. They made a trip back to England for medical inquiries about his stomach ailment, but  A. C. Leighton died in 1965 after his long illness.

Not wanting to sit around and feel sorry for herself, Barbara Leighton enrolled at Alberta College of Art and Design. In her mid-fifties, she received a diploma in fiber and metal crafts, and for two years won scholarships in Visual Arts.

For extra income after her husband's death, Barbara composed linocuts and woodcuts entirely from works by her husband, tracing his work and then making a number of woodblocks for colours. She usually produced editions of 100, and she produced a very limited amount of images, (perhaps fewer than 25 in all). She signed her work “Barleigh”, a combination of her maiden and married surnames, She labelled each print “Block print from the original painting by A.C. Leighton, cut and printed by Barleigh.”

 In 1970, Barbara turned her home in the Calgary Foothills into a gallery featuring the work of her husband and his contemporaries and a craft centre for artists and a teaching facility for children. The complex grew over the years and is now known as the Leighton Art Centre which is operated by a foundation established by Barbara in 1974. 

In 1984, Barbara received the Alberta Achievement Award for her contribution to Alberta's arts.

Barbara Leighton died in 1986.

Selected Collections
Leighton Art Centre, Foothills, AB
Leighton Foundation, Calgary, AB
Penticton, Art Gallery, Penticton, BC
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC