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 Albert Lorey Groll  (1866 - 1952)

About: Albert Lorey Groll
 

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/Arizona      Known for: desert landscape and figure painting, etching

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BIOGRAPHY for Albert Groll
Facts/Data
Birth
1866 (New York City)
 
Death
1952 (New York City)

Lived/Active
New Mexico/Arizona

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Often Known For
desert landscape and figure painting, etching

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Categories of Interest

San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Taos Pre 1940
Tonalism
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in New York City, Albert Lorey Groll became a much admired, successful western desert landscape and skyscape painter, although he remained a resident of New York City where he associated with the cultural elite.  In 1910, he was elected to the National Academy of Design.  Many of his paintings have rich colors and are landscapes with elements of realism but also have a focus on abstract shapes.

Groll spent most of his student years in Munich, Germany at the Royal Academy studying with Ludwig Loefftz, and London, England; and he also studied at the Royal Academy in Antwerp, something few Americans were doing in the late 19th century.

Although he preferred figure painting, he returned to New York City in 1895 and became exclusively a landscape painter because he could not afford to pay models for figure painting.

He painted along the Atlantic Coast and then went West with Brooklyn Indian ethnologist, Professor Stuart Culin, who was writing a treatise on Indian games.  Groll painted landscapes in Arizona and New Mexico, especially skyscapes with towering cloud formations.  The Laguna Pueblo Indians of New Mexico were so admiring of his landscapes they named him Chief Bald-Head-Eagle Eye.

In 1904, he first went to Arizona, where he accompanied Culin, and became a friend and guest of Indian dealer Lorenzo Hubbell at his well-known Ganado trading post.  One of Groll's desert scenes, Arizona, won a gold medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1906, and after this recognition, Groll wrote to Hubbell that this western paintings "have made a decided hit, both artistically and financially; inf fact, my visit to the Southwest has been my lucky stars." (Blue, 215)  In 1908, Groll spent the summer in Arizona and at Yellowstone National Park.

Although he was much recognized in the East, he continued to return to the West, especially the desert, and it was he who alerted the general public to the varying conditions of Arizona that made the desert so appealing.  Of this ability, Dorothy Harmsen wrote in her book, American Western Art that he caused Americans to "recognize the artistic possibilities that existed in the desert land of that area.  This sagebrush and cactus country, laying broad and low with arid yellow soil, stretching away to a sky full of clouds, makes an unforgettable picture" (84).

He also did a lot of painting in New Mexico at Laguna and Santa Fe, and is credited with introducing William Robinson Leigh to the Southwest.  Subsequently Leigh became more famous for his paintings of the region than Groll.  The two of them had studied together in Munich, and at Groll's suggestion, first went to New Mexico in 1906.

In addition to the method of pure oil painting, Groll mixed crayon with oil and sometimes scuffed the surface to get a textural effect.

Sources include:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Peter Hassrick, Drawn to Yellowstone
Martha Blue, Indian Trader, The Life and Times of J.L. Hubbell

Written by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier


Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Albert Groll was born and raised in New York City, but spent several years in Europe studying art. He was taught by Ludwig Loefftz at the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany. He then attended the Royal Academy in Antwerp, Belgium and on to London, England. When he returned to New York City in 1895, he gave up figure painting because it was too costly to hire models.

Groll painted the landscape of the Atlantic coast and then headed west to Arizona in 1904 with ethnologist Professor Stuart Culin, who went west to write a paper about Indian games. While on this trip Groll was introduced to Lorenzo Hubbell, an Indian dealer who owned the Ganado Trading Post. One of the scenes Groll painted on that trip won a gold medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1906. After winning this award he wrote to Hubbell saying his western paintings, "have made a decided hit, both artistically and financially; in fact, my visit to the Southwest has been my lucky stars."

In 1906 he went to visit New Mexico with his friend William Robinson Leigh, who he had met while studying in Munich. The paintings done at the Laguna Pueblo of the vast landscape and towering clouds impressed the Indians so much that they called Groll Chief Bald-Head-Eagle Eye. He became known for his oil paintings that were sometimes abstract and sometimes mixed media with crayon and scuffed on to make a more textured surface. He was inducted into the National Academy of Design in 1910. Although he maintained his studio in New York City and was well-known in the East, he frequently went painting out west to give his collectors the desert subject matter that was much sought after. His work was included in the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition in 1915.

His work is in museum collections at The Fine Art Museum of San Francisco, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Richmond Art Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution among others. He died in New York City in 1952 at age 86.

Bibliography
1. Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West by Peggy and Harold Samuels
2. Drawn to Yellowstone by Peter Hassrick
3. Indian Trader, The Life and Times of J.L. Hubbell by Martha Blue
Fine Art Museum of San Francisco
4. American Western Art by Dorothy Harmsen

Biography from Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site:
Referred to as "America's sky painter," Albert Lorey Groll was said to have been one of the first artists to capture the grandeur of the western plains.  Groll was born in New York City, but most of his student years were spent in London, England, and Munich, Germany.  He studied under Nickolaus Gysis and Ludwig Von Loefftz.

Figure painting was his preference; but as he could not afford models for anatomy studies, he found his models in the trees, rivers, hills and fields.  Before going west, he painted the atmospheric effects along the Atlantic Coast—Cape Cod, Sandy Hook and New York City.

Groll accompanied Professor Stuart Culin of the Brooklyn Museum of Arts and Sciences on an exploration trip to the Southwest.  The sketches he made of the desert furnished material for two of his characteristic landscapes that were shown at an exhibition of the Society of American Artists.  He won a gold medal at the Pennsylvania Academy with his canvas "Arizona."  He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1910.

Despite his success in the East, he returned to the desert again and again.  His cloud renderings of the desert are his most popular paintings.  Not until Groll began to picture Arizona under the varying conditions of wind and weather, did Americans realize the artistic possibilities that existed in the desert land of the area.  The sagebrush and cactus country of the Southwest that lays broad and low with arid yellow soil, stretching away to a sky full of clouds, makes an unforgettable picture.  Much of Groll's work in New Mexico was done around Laguna pueblo, Taos and Santa Fe.  His Indian friends from the pueblo admired his ability to depict their land with beauty and truth and named him "Chief Bald Head-Eagle Eye."

Although his paintings reveal the rugged character of the Southwest, they still maintain a delicate symphonic charm, the appeal of which has been recognized by many leading musicians.  A Groll painting, which was inspired by a moonlight symphony by Edward McDowell, hung on the wall above the great composer's bed. Groll's friends were men who were among the highest standing in the world of music.  Groll died in New York City, where he had always maintained a home.

REFERENCES:

Benezit, E.  Dictionnaire Critique...Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs…Temps.  Paris: Librarie Grund.  1976.

Dawdy, Doris Ostrander.  Artists of the American West:  A Biographical Dictionary.  [1974] 3 vols.  Chicago: Swallow Press.  1985.

Fielding, Mantle.  Dictionary of American Painters Engravers & Sculptors.  Stratford, Connecticut: John Edwards Publisher.  1971.

Harmsen, Dorothy.  Harmsen's Western Americana.  Denver, Colorado: Harmsen Publishing, Co.  1978.

Mallett, Daniel Trowbridge.  Mallett's Index of Artists.  New York: Peter Smith, 1948.

Samuels, Peggy and Harold.  Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.  New Jersey: Castle.  1985.


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