Biography

Birth date: 21 August 1873
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Death date: 18 February 1945
Death place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Final rank: Lieutenant
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

By the outbreak of the First World War Frederick William Leist was an expatriate living and working in London as an illustrator for the Graphic. During the war Leist initially worked for the British War Office and H.M. Stationery Office designing recruitment posters from 1915-1916. Then, in 1917, he became one of ten Australian artists living in Britain to be appointed official war artists. Leist was attached to the 5th Division Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as an honorary lieutenant from 3 January 1917 until 31 March 1920. He was at the Western Front from September to December 1917 and again from June to August 1918, this time working alongside fellow artist A. Henry Fullwood. His skill as a draughtsman and ability to work quickly 'en plein air' ensured that collectively his drawings, watercolours and small oil paintings give an insightful impression of life at the front line for Australian soldiers, the Belgium and French civilians living alongside them and the battle ravaged landscape itself.

Leist's work was included in Australia in The War, an exhibition of paintings and photographs by Australian war artists at the Grafton Gallery, London, 25 May - 22 June 1918. Other exhibiting artists included Charles Bryant, George Lambert, Frank Crozier, H. Septimus Power and James Quinn. Leist also designed the lithographic poster used to promote the exhibition. Between the war's end and 1921 he was commissioned by the Australian War Records Office to produce several large paintings depicting key moments in the third battle of Ypres and the capture of Mount St Quentin. He was further commissioned in 1927 by Australian War Records to paint the sinking of HMT Southland.

In the late 1880s Leist studied art at Sydney Technical College and at the Art Society of NSW while training as a furniture designer in the workshops of David Jones. At the Art Society of NSW Julian Ashton conducted classes and this is where Leist was introduced to plein air painting. During the 1890s he worked as an illustrator for the Bulletin and Sydney Mail and established his reputation as a black & white artist.

After his war service he painted two large murals for the Australian Pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley in 1924. As a result of these works Leist gained several commissions from the United States and toured the south-west before returning to Australia in 1926. In 1929 Leist became the Head of Painting at East Sydney Technical College and remained so until 1938. He was a member of the Royal Art Society of NSW and the Australian Watercolour Institute. His work is represented in the collections of state and regional public galleries including the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of NSW. Leist died in Sydney, February 1945, and was survived by his wife Ada and a daughter.

Rolls and Awards

Art

Resting on the road to the front

Depicts a group of soldiers sitting under poplar tree planted along roadway.

ART02882

Mud bath

Depicts a horse standing in depression in ground, in a (possibly) temporary yard, the corner posts of which are leaning in forming two irregular 'A's linked with rope, horse wearing nose bag, mud encrusted on haunches and sides, sandbags at rear.

ART02890

Ditched

Watercolour and charcoal sketch depicting a horsedrawn general service wagon with a broken wheel in a ditch beside a tree lined road. Two Australian soldiers are unloading the wagon onto another wagon that is situated in the background of the image. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and...

ART02907

Camp kitchens, Rackingham

Watercolour sketch depicting an encampment with a number of buildings which have large chimneys issuing smoke, most probably the camp kitchens. In the foreground are the images of two soldiers. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art...

ART02910

Wash house, Outersteene

Pencil sketch depicting a number of women working in a laundry in Oultersteene. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art School of New South Wales from c.1894-95. During the 1890s he worked as an illustrator for the 'Bulletin' and...

ART02911

Blaringhem Church

Watercolour sketch depicting the church at Blaringhem and its tower with a house nearby. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art School of New South Wales from c.1894-95. During the 1890s he worked as an illustrator for the 'Bulletin'...

ART02913

Wet weather kit

Watercolour sketch depicting two Australian soldiers. One soldier is facing the viewer, the other is a side view leaning on his rifle with a cigarette in his mouth, illustrating their wet weather kit: slouch hat, waterproof cape-groundsheet over tunic haversack and trousers, and gum boots....

ART02915

Crusaders

Depicts an Australian soldier on the right, shirtless and wearing a slouch hat and holding a bayonet (?), embracing a medieval crusader wearing chainmail and a St George cross tunic from the Third Crusade (1189-92), with the St George cross behind them. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator...

ART02930

Sinking of the Southland

Depicts the sinking of the HMT Southland in the Aegean Sea, with the soldiers from 2nd Australian Division taking to and waiting for lifeboats or jumping overboard. Part of deck of the SS Southland is visible with a ship's boat hanging from davit and crew attempting to launch the boat. HMT...

ART09829

Frank Wilkinson

Mr Frank Wilkinson, Australian journalist who wrote about New South Wales forces during the Boer War.

ART15739

Dead Boer

Unidentified young soldier wearing British Army tunic, sitting on ground, hands in front, looking at elderly man wearing dark jacket, pale trousers and boots, bandolier across chest, lying supine on ground

ART16967

'On the wallaby', but still smiling

Watercolour and ink sketch depicting an Australian soldier with haversack, billy, and rifle without shirt and smoking pipe. On the end of the rifle is a Turkish soldiers cap and in the background is a sign with 'GALLIPOLI' on it pointing in the opposite direction. Underneath the image is written...

ART19610

The Australian Naval Contingent for China: A Farewell Concert

The Boxer Uprising was a series of violent civil disturbances that took place in China between 1899 and 1901. The Uprising was an attempt by armed Chinese secret societies to resist the growing foreign influence in China at the end of the 19th century. Among the most violent and popular of these...

ART96126

Boer war news

This drawing is probably for a magazine or newspaper, and the joke relies on the homonym (boar, Boer); newsboy selling papers, elderly man buying paper, tram conductor in background.

ART50113

Australia in the War

Lithographic poster advertising an exhibition of paintings and photographs by Australian artists called 'Australians in the War' which was held at Grafton Galleries, London in 1918. The work depicts four Australian soldiers relaxing in the trenches at the front. The exhibition included works by...

ARTV07022

The taking of Lone Pine

Depicts the battlefield at Gallipoli during the Battle for Lone Pine. At the landing in April 1915 a single pine tree was growing on the site and the Australians called it 'Lonesome Pine' from the title of a popular song of the day, 'The Trail of the Lonesome Pine'. The tree was destroyed in the...

ART02931

Lille Gate, Ypres

Charcoal sketch depicting the Lille Gates at Ypres in Belgium. The road that is travelling through the gates contains horse drawn wagons, civilians, goods, rubble and soldiers. The Australian Divisions headquarters were near the gate in the walls around Ypres (on the SW side opposite the Menin...

ART02879

Cleaning harness

Depicts an unidentified saddler with either artillery or horse transport unit, working on harness traces, possibly oiling metal chain on end of trace, other traces draped over line between trees, leather bag with tools behind, second bag, possibly bucket, in front, saddler wearing leather apron...

ART02880

Vlamertinghe Church

Watercolour sketch depicting the Vlamertinghe church, the road through Vlamertinghe to Ypres with military lorries and bicycles. The village of Vlamertinghe is 1 mile (1 1/2 Kilometres) west of where the Third Battle of Ypres was fought. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He...

ART02883

Cloth Hall, Ypres

Progressively destroyed by German artillery fire from 1914, the great medieval Cloth Hall in Ypres, was in ruins when the Australians fought nearby in the final months of 1917.

ART02884

Ypres Canal

Comines Canal, runs to the west of the city, meeting the Canal de l'Yser on the northern edge of the city; Third Battle of, Salient, Western Front.

ART02885

Divisional headquarters, Dickebusch

Watercolour sketch depicting a farmhouse 3 miles (5 Kilometres) south west of Dickebusch, used as headquarters for 5th Division AIF during the Third Battle of Ypres (?). On the verso is a pencil sketch of a civilian and war damaged farmhouse. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher....

ART02886

Lille Gate, Ypres

Depicts the Gate in the walls around (on the south west side opposite the Menin Gate); Third Battle of, Western Front.

ART02887

Horse lines, Dickebusch

Depicts horses tethered under shelter with open sides and corrugated iron roof, unidentified men sitting in sunshine (horses are probably officers' riding horses); Third Battle of, Western Front.

ART02888

'Gotha', Scottish camp, Reninghelst

Depicts searchlights around group of buildings at Reninghelst, 4 miles (6 1/2 Kilometres approx) south west of, searchlights focused on German aircraft on bombing raid on moonlight night; Third Battle of, Western Front.

ART02889

Grease King

Depicts a bare-armed cook standing at improvised workbench, field kitchen and row of dixies on hearth behind, pots and implements hanging on tree, boxes stacked beneath bench cooking utensils, encampment, tent;

ART02895

Canal at Blaringhem

Depicts a bridge over a canal at Blaringhem, horses and foot traffic crossing bridge.

ART02896

Dump at Sercus

Depicts two GS wagons, drawn by horses, being loaded with boxes and crates outside church; Third Battle of Ypres, Western Front.

ART02897

Red Cross barges

Depicts hospital barges on a canal, which were manned by British Army Medical Corps orderlies and Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service nurses (QAIMNS, QAs). The converted barges, which were painted grey and draped with Red Cross flags, were used for conveying sick and wounded...

ART02898

Lace making

Watercolour sketch depicting a nun wearing white head dress and long black habit with rosary, sitting on an upright wooden chair, working on bobbin (or cushion) lace. The lace is cushion supported on a stand in front of her. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the...

ART02909

Dickebusch Church

Depicts the ruins of a church at Dickebusch in Belgium. The figure of a man, possibly a soldier, can be seen walking past in front of the damaged building. Fred Leist was appointed an official war artist in September 1917, attached to the 5th Division AIF and worked twice in France between...

ART02914

Dingbat's holiday

Watercolour and gouache sketch depicting a batman (in Australian military slang 'dingbat' is a derogatory term that comes from 'ding' - a vicious dingo and 'bat' from batman which is an officers servant) sitting over a washing tub, with shirt and socks hanging on a line overhead. Behind him is a...

ART02917

Interior, Dickebusch Church

Watercolour and charcoal sketch depicting the wrecked interior of the Dickebusch Church. There is a gaping hole in roof, glass missing from windows, rubble on floor. There also appears to be two Australian soldiers in the right hand corner of the image. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator...

ART02918

[Cargo for Blighty]

Depicts nurses at work aboard a hospital barge on a canal. The barges were manned by British Army Medical Corps orderlies and Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service nurses (QAIMNS, QAs). The converted barges, which were painted grey and draped with Red Cross flags, were used for...

ART02919

Repairing room, divisional baths

Charcoal sketch depicting a sewing room with women repairing items of uniform. Finished items are hanging from a line on the ceiling and there is an iron stove in the centre of the room. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art School...

ART02921

Well earned rest

Charcoal sketch depicting a soldier asleep in a farm wagon with his rifle and haversack at the end of the wagon. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art School of New South Wales from c.1894-95. During the 1890s he worked as an...

ART02922

Working the heavies

Charcoal and watercolour sketch depicting the gun crew of a 9.2 inch Breech loading howitzer at the Third Battle of Ypres. Four men are lifting a shell on a support for loading, there are other guns in background. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art...

ART02923

Craterland

Depicts a wounded man on a stretcher being carried by four German prisoners of war while under armed escort of an Australian soldier. They are walking along a duckboard track past shell holes filled with water. The landscape has bits of war debris such as destroyed wagon parts and shell casings. In...

ART02925

Australian infantry attack in Polygon Wood

In the third battle of Ypres the Australians encountered reinforced concrete blockhouses, often known as 'pillboxes', that were largely resistant to shell-fire; some had machine-guns firing from loopholes. Leist depicts one under attack at the fateful moment when Lieutenant John Turnour, of the...

ART02927

Searchlight

A group of soldiers and an officer are depicted near a lit anti-aircraft searchlight on the Western Front. The powerful beam of the searchlight streaks diagonally across the picture plane, contrasting against the silent darkness of the night and the quietly expectant men nearby. Fred Leist was...

ART02928

Ypres

Depicts soldiers and horsedrawn wagons outside the damaged Ypres Cloth Hall at night with a search light in the background. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art School of New South Wales from c.1894-95. During the 1890s he worked...

ART16894

Tank in action

A First World War tank in action at the Western Front.

ART19563

Enrolling troops for South Africa in Sydney: the rush of applicants

As part of the British Empire, the Australian Colonies offered troops for the war in South Africa. Australians served in contingents raised by the six colonies and from 1901, by the new Australian Commonwealth. The Australian contribution to the Boer War consisted of five 'waves'. The first were...

ART96133

Courtyard, Chateau St Gratien

Watercolour and charcoal sketch depicting the courtyard of Chateau St Gratien being used as the headquarters for 5th Division AIF. The courtyard contains soldiers lounging in the sunshine. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art...

ART02892

Major General Joseph Talbot Hobbs

Portrait of Major General (later Lieutenant General Sir) Joseph John Talbot Hobbs, General Officer Commanding 5th Division Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front during the First World War. Fred Leist was appointed an official war artist in September 1917, attached to the 5th Division AIF...

ART02926

Wireless station, St Gratien

Depicts the wireless station at St Gratien. Ensconsed in a temporary communication station in the chateau at St Gratien, Australian Head Quarters, two Australian soldiers seated on crates wearing headphones with telegraphic / wireless sets. These soldiers can be identified as signallers from the...

ART02876

Thiepval, Somme

Watercolour and charcoal sketch depicting war damaged tree stumps and road at Thiepval battlefield, which was an area near where there was much bitter fighting in August and September of 1916. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art...

ART02877

Gibralter, Pozieres

Depicts a wrecked building,smashed trees, a war grave and a battlefield on the horizon near Pozieres, France. 'Gibralter' was a German observation post, originally of reinforced concrete, on the outskirts of Pozieres. It was taken by the 2nd Battalion AIF after heavy fighting and was called 'The...

ART02881

Mill, Reninghelst

Watercolour and charcoal sketch depicting the mill at Reninghelst. The image contains a group of buildings, roofs, walls and a damaged chimney situated in a valley among low hills. The mill was chiefly for processing sugar beet. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at...

ART02903

Lewis Gun in action

Depicts two soldiers in chalky trench firing a Lewis gun, one wearing tin (protective) helmet, other wearing slouch hat, water bottle and haversack on ground of trench nearby.

ART02901

The Estancia

The work depicts two soldiers of the 60th Battalion (indicated by the colour patches on the soldiers uniforms) resting outside what appears to be a farmhouse stable/barn. Talking to them is a woman in traditional Belgian/French peasant dress wearing sabots. Estancia in Spanish has two meanings,...

ART93168

School house, Pozieres

Watercolour sketch depicting the ruins of school building in Pozieres, on the Western Front, surrounded by trenches. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art School of New South Wales from c.1894-95. During the 1890s he worked as an...

ART02891

Rest camp, Reninghelst

Depicts three soldiers setting up camp at Reninghelst, Belgium. One man leans against the wooden wagon which contains their supplies, while another stands in the wagon presumably unpacking things. A white tent is pitched to the left and a man sits on a blue mat in front of it. In the background are...

ART02920

Camouflaged tents, Dickebusch

Charcoal and watercolour sketch depicting bell tents with rows of sandbags around them, chimney pipes protruding from doorways, and camouflage patterns on canvas at the encampment at Dickebusch. There are also two Australian soldiers in the foreground carrying water and washing. Third Battle of...

ART02924

Ville-sur-Ancre

Watercolour sketch depicting a view of the village of Ville-sur-Ancre, with scars of trenches on hillside behind. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art School of New South Wales from c.1894-95. During the 1890s he worked as an...

ART02904

Hitchi-Koo machine (delousing fumigator)

Charcoal and watercolour sketch depicting the preventative health services delousing fumigator (Hitchi-Koo machine). Two soldiers are loading the bank of three autoclave ovens with discarded clothing for fumigation to kill lice. Autoclaves are wooden barrels with metal doors that will resist high...

ART02908

Mouquet farm, Pozieres

Watercolour sketch depicting the wrecked buildings of Mouquet farm in Pozieres. The farm became a battlefield and was near the site of heavy fighting by Australian troops in August and September 1917. The image shows trench lines surrounding a pile of rubble with war graves marked with crosses....

ART02875

Field dressing station, Somme

Painting depicts a Field Dressing Station on the Somme featuring a bell tent. A man in shirtsleeves washes hands in an enamel bowl supported on stand. A towel hangs from a nearby tree.

ART02894

Poplar avenue (Road to Steenvoorde)

Depicts a truck moving down a straight road with tall poplar trees planted on either side passing through fields. A village is visible in the background as is a church. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Sydney Art School and the Art School of New South Wales...

ART02916

Highway, Steenvoorde

Watercolour sketch depicting the road running through the village of Steenvoorde in the Ballieul area. The image contains a church and houses on the left side of the road and the far side is lined with two rows of poplar trees. Frederick Leist was a painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at...

ART02878

Capture of Mont St Quentin

Depicts Australian soldiers (17th Battalion) and German soldiers in a captured German trench on the flank of Mont St. Quentin. The 17th Battalion colour patch, diamond shape and horizontally divided black over green, is clearly visible on a number of the Australian soldiers in the foreground. A...

ART02929

Published Collection

Item 15: Christmas entertainment to Australian soldiers

Souvenir program for a theatrical performance during the First World War. This program is for a Christmas matinee concert at the London Opera House for the Australian Imperial Force during Christmas 1916. The front cover of the program features a Fred Leist illustration entitled 'On the wallaby but...

PUBS002/002/001/003/015

Item 17: Entertainment to members of the Australian Military and Naval Forces.

Souvenir program for a concert held during the First World War. This program was presented to members of the Australian Military and Naval forces attending a concert at Royal Albert Hall on 26 December 1918. The cover illustration, drawn by Fried Leist, shows three soldiers at rest. All are...

PUBS002/006/001/001/017

Digitised Collection

Personal Files Book 14, 6 October - 30 November 1916

File of papers relating to the First World War service of Major General John Monash, 3rd Australian Division. This file, originally part of Book 14, covers 6 October 1916 to 30 November 1916 and includes a report by Major General Sir Francis Howard on the readiness of the 3rd Australian Division, a...

RCDIG0000616

Timeline

Date of birth 1873-08-21
Date of death 1945-02-18