Leon Kroll (1884-1974)

Leon Kroll (1884-1974)

Known for his strong figural work and attention to compositional design, Abraham Leon Kroll was awarded almost every major painting prize during his long career and continued working in the realist tradition despite shifts in the art world towards abstraction.  Born in New York City in 1884, Kroll enrolled at the Art Students League at the age of 15, studying with John Henry Twachtman, and later attended the National Academy of Design, where he was awarded a scholarship to travel abroad.  In 1908, he went to Paris and enrolled at the Academie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens, continuing the traditional, academic approach to his training. His time in Europe also brought him into contact with the Barbizon School and the Impressionist and Post-impressionist movements, most notably the work of Paul Cezanne. Kroll returned to New York in 1910, and was given his first one-man show at the National Academy. He later took a teaching position at the Academy from 1911 to 1918.  

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Kroll’s early work focused on the urban landscape of New York City and he soon established himself among the art circles of the day, befriending notable New York realists George Bellows and Robert Henri. For the next several years, Kroll continued teaching at the Academy but found time to travel, and became particularly enamored with the Cape Ann region of Massachusetts.  He first visited Gloucester in 1912, and returned for nearly every summer thereafter. He also made trips to Monhegan Island, Maine, to the American Southwest, joining Bellows and Henri in Santa Fe, and went abroad again to France, where he married Genevieve-Marie Therese Domec in 1923. 

By the late teens and early twenties, Kroll began producing more pastoral-themed landscapes, still lifes, and figure paintings, and garnered praise for his masterful renderings of the female form. While maintaining the strong design elements he had learned through his formal training, he often experimented with subject matter and began employing a bolder color palette. 

Kroll became an Associate of the National Academy in 1920 and was elected a full Academician in 1927. He was a member of numerous art clubs and organizations, and exhibited widely, including at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery, the Carnegie International annuals, and the Society of Independent Artists, among other institutions. Kroll also participated in the Armory Show of 1913 and the Pan-Pacific Exposition two years later. He earned countless awards over the years, receiving the Art Institute of Chicago’s Logan Medal in 1919, the Pennsylvania Academy’s Temple Gold Medal in 1927 and Beck Gold Medal in 1930, the First Prize award at the Carnegie International Exhibition in 1936, and numerous prizes at the National Academy’s annual exhibitions. Like a number of his contemporaries, Kroll was also an accomplished mural painter and completed commissions for the Indiana State Capitol, Johns Hopkins University, and the Justice Department in Washington DC.  Following decades of professional success, Leon Kroll was presented with the National Academy’s President’s Medal in 1971, for a lifetime of achievement in American art.  He passed away in Gloucester in 1974.

References: Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, 1999; Leeds, Leon Kroll: Revisited, An Overview of His Work and Career, (New York: Gerald Peters Gallery), 1998; Hale and Bowers, Leon Kroll: A Spoken Memoir (Charlottesville, VA; University of Virginia Press), 1983; Vose Galleries’ archives.

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