Renowned as a painter, illustrator, cartoonist and teacher, Percival Alexander Leason was born to a farming family in Kaniva, Western Victoria where his first studio was a converted piano case in which he drew pictures of farm life.
At the age of 17 he was apprenticed to the lithographers Sands & McDougall, Melbourne and later shared a studio in Queen Street with the painters McInnes, Frater and Crozier. During this time he also lived and exhibited in Queensland.
In 1916 he married his cousin, Isabel Chapman and the following year moved to Sydney to join the advertising firm of Smith and Julius. Among his projects at this time were the pen and ink illustrations for the Selected Poems of Henry Lawson.
Leason became known for his cartoons in the Sydney Bulletin, nationally famous for his Wiregrass cartoons and as staff artist for the Melbourne Punch was the most highly paid contemporary black-and-white artist in Australia.
In 1924 Leason met Max Meldrum and fell profoundly under his influence as a painter, during this time he produced a variety of styles; his best-known paintings of Australian subjects are a series of portraits of the surviving Aborigines of the Lake Tyers settlement in Victoria. Leason was deeply concerned for the fate of Aborigines whom he perceived as a race under threat. Later landscapes and paintings of European architecture, painted in a tonal, impressionistic manner revealed him as one of the most accomplished of Meldrum’s many followers.
In 1939 he moved to the USA where he worked as an illustrator in New York before settling on Staten Island where he taught at the Institute of Art and Science. Eventually he set up his own art school with his wife and daughter Jean. He won the Hollander Prize at the Audubon Artists’ Annual Exhibition in 1945. In 1957 he realised a life-long ambition to study pre-historic cave paintings in Europe.
Leason was however unable to overcome the shyness which had plagued him since his isolation as a child and failed to capitalise on his many successes and died comparatively poor.