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Mary Leslie sketchbook (2), circa 1860-1900

 Item — Box: Vol. 4
Call Number: MSS 15, Series I

Scope and Contents

This small sketchbook contains 72 mounted illustrations, which include pen and ink drawings, graphite sketches, watercolors, and cut-paper works.

The cut-paper works include finely detailed textual and graphic pieces, such as a small mounted image of flowers and thistles which bears the legend, "Dieu et mon Droit." Another cut out piece depicts the scene of a hunt (perhaps inspired by the paintings of Stubbs), with a ferocious lion leaping to sink his teeth into a racing antelope.

Mary Leslie's watercolor illustrations include a charming depiction of a small grey and black striped cat sitting by beehives in a colorful stylized garden. Attention to composition, color, and detail are clear in this small image, created as though in the form of a panel illustration.

Tiny graphite and pen and ink panel-style drawings, some of which were eventually published, show animals and pastoral scenes. A quartet of tiny mounted panels shows antelope or deer fleeing a hunter's arrow, sheep grazing peacefully by night, a squirrel holding an acorn, and a shepherd with his flock. All of the images are composed with a view to their decorative effect, tightly structured and arranged within miniscule rectangular spaces.

Mary's marine landscapes and studies of shells in graphite and watercolor show a sophisticated grasp of natural subjects.

The album also includes graphite illustrations of biblical scenes, such as Noah releasing the dove from the ark and the infant Moses discovered in a basket. Composition and technique--tight structure, emphasis on surfaces and draped human figures, for example--may evidence some influence from contemporary Victorian art, such as that of the pre-Raphaelites or the St. John's Wood Clique, of which her brother George was a member.

George Dunlop Leslie included a couple of notes in ink, written on pages of the album, to indicate further information about his sister's work. On a page of mounted miniature panels and motifs, he writes, "These and those on the following Pages are designs for 'Breaks' for a work on the 'Song of the three children' published by J. Murray (in wood cut)."

There are a few charming graphite images of women and children. One image shows a mother feeding her child at a table. A small sketch mounted just below shows a toddler grasping a kitten around the neck. A later image shows a young woman holding a book. She wears an elaborate dotted dress, with frilled cuffs. The clothing depicted in these scenes suggests that they date from the 1860s.

A series of intricate paper cut outs is labeled, by George, as follows: "These cut paper designs were done quite late in her life when her balance was gone, they show however how true her artistic power remained. They were cut out without any preliminary drawing. She had but one eye but her eyesight must have been marvelous/ GDL."


  • circa 1860-1900


Physical Description

1 album (56 pages) ; 18 x 11 cm. Bound in blind-stamped green cloth.

Conditions Governing Access

From the Collection:

The materials are open for research.

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Part of the Yale Center for British Art, Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts
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