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Leon Kroll

 (1884 - 1974)
Leon Kroll was active/lived in New York, New Mexico / Europe.  Leon Kroll is known for landscape, cityscape, figure, still life and genre painting, teaching.

Leon Kroll

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Leon Kroll
Leon Kroll remained a painter of realism at a time when the American art world was moving rapidly into abstraction and other styles that fell under the general term of modernism.  Nevertheless, asserting that he liked easy-to-recognize subjects that created a sense of that which was warm, sympathetic, and romantic, he was a leading artist of his time painting lush landscapes, figures, and still life. Other subjects such as his industrial scenes and cityscapes had elements of social realism and were painted with a heavier brush than his other works. He was especially focused on the human figure, and many of them seemed dreamlike in filmy dresses reclining in landscapes.

Kroll was born in New York City in 1884. He first studied at the Art Students League under John H. Twachtman, and in 1904 entered the National Academy School, winning the Academy's premier award in 1908. To earn money, he worked as a janitor and did mechanical drawing.

He traveled to Paris in 1908, where he studied at the Academie Julian as a student of Jean-Paul Laurens, and exhibited at some of the major Paris exhibitions. While in Paris, he came under the influence of the Impressionists and was especially taken with the works of Paul Cezanne.

When Kroll returned from Europe in 1910, he mounted a one-man show of his Parisian work.  The exhibition was a critical and financial success.

He became an instructor at the National Academy and also taught at the Maryland Institute (1919-23), the Art Institute of Chicago (1924-25), and The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1929-30).

Kroll began to paint views of New York in 1918, a subject that fascinated him for the rest of his life.  George Bellows, who not only became a friend but also exerted a strong influence upon Kroll's work, was an admirer of his art. Through Bellows, Kroll was introduced to the Eight and began exhibiting with them at the MacDowell Club. He also traveled to paint including to Rockport and Gloucester, Massachusetts; Monhegan Island in Maine; and in 1917, he joined his friends Robert Henri, and George Bellows in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

During the 1930s, he worked for the WPA on murals for the Department of Justice Building.

Kroll maintained an apartment at 253 West Forty-second Street in Manhattan, from which he painted several views of New York scenes.

He died in New York City in 1974.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.
Leon Kroll was a painter, lithographer, art critic and teacher who was born in 1884 in New York City. Living his professional life in New York City and Chicago, he summered in Rockport, MA, and became one of the most popular and famous of its painters by 1920.

Kroll studied at the Art Students League in New York City with John H. Twachtman in 1901, the National Academy of Design in 1903, and the Academie Julian in Paris from 1908-1909 with Jean Paul Laurens.

He was an Associate (1920) and full Academician (1927) of the National Academy of Design; a member of the New Society of Artists; Philadelphia Art Club; American Society of Painters and Sculptors (president, 1931-1935); Boston Art Club; National Institute of Arts and Letters (vice-president, 1943); American Academy of Arts and Letters (1950, director and chairman of the art committee); Woodstock Art Association; and the National Art Club (life member).

His first solo exhibition was given in 1910 at the National Academy of Design and many followed.

Kroll's accomplishments in art are vast and he won prestigious awards at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (1927, 1930); Salmagundi Club (1912); Pan-Pacific Exposition (1915); Art Institute of Chicago (1919, 1924, where he showed his work in a two-man show with George Bellows); Wilmington SFA (1921); National Academy of Design (1921, 1922, 1932, 1935, 1943, 1965); the Carnegie Institute (1926, 1936); Newport AA (1929, 1939); National Arts Club (1930); Boston Art Club (1932); International Exposition, Paris (1937); Philadelphia Art Alliance (1941); and the Chevalier, Legion of Honor, France (1950).

Kroll is represented in the permanent collections at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; PAFA; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Institute; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Dayton Art Institute; Detroit Institute of Art; Denver Art Museum; San Diego Fine Art Society; Norton Gallery; St. Louis Museum of Art; John Herron Art Institute and hundreds more.

He was commissioned to do murals for the U.S. Military Cemetery, Omaha Beach, France and the John Hopkins University Auditorium. He was a teacher at the National Academy, the Maryland Institute of Art, the PAFA and the Arts Student League and painted in Gloucester by 1912. He became a close friend of Chagall and R. Delaunay in France, and in 1917 he went to Santa Fe to join Robert Henri and George Bellows on painting excursions. By 1920, he was one of the most famous realists in America and in 1937 he was given a retrospective exhibition at the Worcester Museum in 1937.

He died in Gloucester in 1974.

By P.J. Pierce

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV
Leon Kroll (1884-1974) was an accomplished American painter, lithographer, critic, and art teacher.

Born in New York City, Kroll studied at the Art Students League of New York under John Henry Twachtman, and at the Academie Julian in Paris with Jean Paul Laurens in the late 1900s.

In 1913 Kroll showed work at the Armory Show.

In addition to his own work, Kroll taught at the Art Students League of New York and the school of the National Academy of Design, where he had his first solo exhibition in 1910, was named as Associate in 1920 and as full Academician in 1927. He was also named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1950.

Among Kroll's major public works are murals at the Department of Justice Building, 1935; the Indiana Statehouse, with figures described by critics as "Bolsheviks", 1952; Worcester Memorial Auditorium, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1938-1942; Shriver Hall at Johns Hopkins University, circa 1953.


Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia
Leon Kroll's academic instruction began at the Art Students League with J.H. Twachtman and evolved to include the National Academy of Design and the popular Académie Julian in Paris with Jean Paul Laurens.  He exhibited at the National Academy of Design at the young age of 18.(1) While Kroll's artistic instruction followed a straightforward academic path, his friendships with George Bellows, Robert Henri, and Eugene Speicher amongst other realists, allowed him to straddle two seemingly opposite factions within the art world in the mid-twentieth century.  Kroll congregated often with Henri's circle and often provided fellow artists with critiques of their work upon their requests.  He also served as a faculty member intermittently at several art schools. 

Travels and friendships also marked his career with European artists such as Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, and Robert and Sonya Delaunay.  Kroll interpreted his subject matter with realistic overtones. He tackled landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and nudes, the latter for which he became most recognized. The artist himself stated: "I've never given up landscape painting. I've never limited myself as to subject.  I've always been curious for a new kind of motif.  I've painted still lifes and landscapes, compositions with figures, nudes, everything."(2)  Kroll's oeuvre represents a prolific cache of paintings through which he captured the world around him. 

Kroll began visiting Maine as a student, and the landscape there became a significant subject that he painted throughout his life.  Kroll often depicted the landscape of Ogunquit, Maine, seemingly focusing on one cove, or at the very least, utilizing a similar setting for many of his compositions.  "I always use nature as a kind of abstract encyclopedia of fact.  I use parts and compose a picture.  And even while I'm creating in this space, I never copy nature…".(3)  During an early trip to Maine, Kroll met Winslow Homer, who advised him,  "Do figures, my boy. Leave rocks to your old age. They're easy."(4) While Kroll acknowledged Homer's reputation and instruction, in many paintings of the Maine coast, he could not avoid delineating the impressive boulders of the landscape.

1. There is some confusion about this early date.  Lisa Peters cites 1899 as the year that Kroll began working with Twachtman at the Art Students League while Valerie Leeds places him with Twachtman in 1901, the year of Twachtman's death.
2. Quoted in Nancy Hale and Fredson Bowers, editors, Leon Kroll: A Spoken Memoir (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1983), 46.
3. Ibid, 106.
4. Ibid, 13.

Submitted by the Staff of the Columbus Museum

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About  Leon Kroll

Born:  1884 - New York City
Died:   1974 - New York City
Known for:  landscape, cityscape, figure, still life and genre painting, teaching