1881 - 1968
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Born in Dublin, William John Leech studied at the Metropolitan School of Art and later at the RHA School under Walter Osborne and at the Academie Julian in Paris. From 1903 until 1917 Leech lived mainly in Concarneau in Brittany, but visited Dublin regularly and continued to exhibit annually at the RHA, who elected him a full member in 1910. His reputation was gaining similar status in Paris, where he won a bronze medal at the 1914 Salon. In 1918 Leech served for a time in France, but this experience of World War I left him suffering from depression. He continued painting however, and exhibited throughout the 1920s and 1930s at the RHA, RA and New English Club in London, and represented Ireland at a number of significant international locations including Venice in 1926 and Brussels in 1930. From 1944 on Leech was represented by the Dawson Gallery in Dublin, where solo shows were held in 1945. A major retrospective of his work was held at the National Gallery of Ireland in 1947 and toured to the Ulster Museum and the Musee des Beaux Arts, Quimper, accompanied by an extensive catalogue by Denise Ferran.
Although he received a huge amount of recognition for his art throughout his life, Leech struggled financially, often making his own frames to save money. His paintings can be found in major Irish collections such as the National Gallery of Ireland, The Hugh Lane, The Office of Public Works, Ulster Museum and Crawford Gallery.