Harry Leith-Ross

by Armand Cabrera

Harry Leith-Ross was born on January 27, 1886 in the former British colony of Mauritius, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Harry spent his youth in England and Scotland. He attended the University of Birmingham, in England for two years before leaving for America at the age of 17.

Ross came to the United States in 1903 to work in a coal business operated by his uncle in New Mexico. After living in New Mexico, he moved to Denver, Colorado, where he worked in commercial art and advertising.

In 1909, he traveled to Paris and studied for a year at the Academie Julian under Jean- Paul Laurens. He studied the following year with Stanhope Forbes in England. Ross returned to America in 1910. Three years later, he studied painting with Birge Harrison and John Fabian Carlson at the Art Students League’s summer school at Woodstock, New York. Ross moved permanently to the New Hope area of Pennsylvania in 1935, settling in Solebury.

Ross excelled in finding the splendor in ordinary scenes of everyday life. His dramatic uses of lighting and poetic color harmonies reveal sensitivity to commonplace things. His realism although rooted in the world transcends the mere description of facts and depends on a sensitive connection to the motif, a more thoughtful look and a belief all things are beautiful.

In 1936, Ross was elected a full Academician in the National Academy of Design. He taught landscape painting classes in Woodstock, NY, Newport and Rockport, CT and Gloucester, MA. He was a visiting instructor at the University of Buffalo, New York and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In 1956, he wrote The Landscape Painter’s Manual for Watson Guptill Publications.

The artist won numerous awards in his lifetime for watercolor and oil paintings from the National Academy of Design, American Watercolor Society and the Salmagundi Club. Harry Leith Ross died on March 15, 1973 in Pineville, Pennsylvania.


Poetry in Design: The Art of Harry Leith-Ross
Erika Jaeger-Smith
Michener Art Museum 2006

The landscape Painters Manual
Harry Leith-Ross
Watson Guptill Publications 1956

Pennsylvania Impressionism
Brian H. Peterson
University of Pennsylvania Press 2002

There are too many pictures painted which are either near photographic reproductions of nature, or are attempts at expressive rendering of the landscape without the knowledge that is necessary before expression is possible.
~Harry Leith-Ross


8 thoughts on “Harry Leith-Ross

  1. Great post, Armand, and thanks for the booklist. I can see the J. Carlson influence, and I love his choice of subjects and his fresh sense of color.

  2. His colors are so harmonious and gentle. I suspect he used a limited palette and great deal of knowledge about color.

  3. My Mothers name was Doreen Leith-Ross and was connected in some way to a place called Arnage Castle Scotland where I think H.Leith-Ross stayed for a while..
    It is an interesting link to an American Artist !!

  4. Hello anonymous, you must be related to me. My grandfather is Harry Leith-Ross's nephew (and son of Harry's brother Frederick, who was chief economic advisor to the UK government). Arnage castle was the family house for several generations. Where did your mother Doreen get her surname? Who were her parents? I would be very interested to know.

  5. Hi Anonymous, My name is Juan Campos and I am the author of a book in Spanish "Náufragos de Antaño" on XIX th century shipwrecks in Galicia, NW Spain. One of its longest chapters narrates the loss of HMS Serpent (Nov, 10th, 1890)whose commander was Harry Leith Ross, uncle of the painter and of the economic adviser to the British Government.
    Next year (2015) is the 125th aniversary of the sinking and we would like to invite relatives of commander Ross to the commemoration.

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