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William Leighton Leitch was born in Glasgow in 1804. Leitch began his career as an apprentice to a sign painter in Glasgow. In 1824, he became a scene painter at the Glasgow Theatre Royal, a trade he continued after his move to London in 1830. Leitch gained employment, first at the Queen’s Theatre and then at the Pavillion. During this time in London he began to produce watercolors and oil paintings. While in his twenties, Leitch traveled to Italy where he stayed for several years, returning with a large collection of sketches and finished watercolors, extensive teaching experience, and numerous introductions to aristocratic families.

Leitch was of seminal influence on the great Hungarian painter, Miklós Barabás. The two artists met in the 1830s at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, where Leitch’s quick, light watercolor technique captured Barabás’ fancy. The two became close friends, and Barabás learned the freer English method of executing watercolors with a wide brush on damp paper. As a result of this friendship, Barabás was able to modernize watercolor landscape painting in 19th -century Hungary.

Starting in 1842 and continuing for a period of 22 years, Leitch gave drawing and watercolor lessons to Queen Victoria and members of the royal family. Leitch exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1833 and 1861. After being declined admission to the Society of Painters in Water-Colours, Leitch was invited to join the New Water-Colour Society in 1862, becoming a prominent contributor to that Society’s annual exhibitions and serving as it vice-president from 1873 until his death in London in 1883.

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