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William Leighton Leitch (1804-83)

The moonlight lesson: a three-stage watercolour demonstration c. 1846-65

Pencil and wash | 8.0 x 14.0 cm (whole object) | RCIN 919719

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Queen Victoria was keen to improve her watercolour skills, possibly inspired by the example set by some of her artistic ladies-in-waiting. After a short series of lessons with Edward Lear, she was taught by the Scottish landscape painter William Leighton Leitch for 22 years. Leitch was a thorough teacher, instructing his royal pupil in composition, light, shade and colour, as can be seen here in the queen’s own practice sheet, accompanied by his detailed instructions on painting a moonlight scene. Victoria’s early love of painting endured throughout her life – the Royal Collection includes more than 50 sketchbooks and albums filled with her work. She enjoyed painting in nature, sketching frequently on her annual visits to Scotland and travels in Europe. Leitch observed that the widowed queen achieved some solace through her sketchbook and colour box.