Boca Raton Museum of Art

Boca Raton, FL



Leon Kroll: Figuratively Speaking

March 22 - May 7, 2000


Leon Kroll is quintessentially a 20th century American realist artist. His work is idealized, classical, contemplative. Born in New York City in 1884, Kroll attended the Art Students' League, where his first instructor was American Impressionist John H. Twatchman. While studying at the Acádemie Julien in Paris, he won the Grand Prix for painting the nude. By 1912 in America, Kroll was an award-winning artist, with colleagues Glackens, Henri, and Bellows, and the friendship of Winslow Homer. His painting was shaped early on by realism, softened by French Impressionism, and the Post-impressionism of Renoir and Cézanne. Though Kroll painted landscapes and still lifes, the single, constant theme of his work was the female form. He painted distinguished murals for the Justice Building in Washington, and at Johns Hopkins University, and his work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian. (left: Untitled (portrait), n.d., charcoal on paper, 19 3/4 x 12 3/4 inches, courtesy of a private collector, Connecticut)

Interpreting Kroll's treatment of the female form, Boca Raton Museum of Art Executive Director George S. Bolge writes in the exhibition's catalogue: "The single, constant theme of Kroll's work is the female body in infinite variation but always subjected to a formal and monumental treatment. His figures are based on a firm geometric framework meticulously composed and characterized by fullness of forms and a carefully studied balance of masses. His solid forms and clearly defined volumes recall Cézanne's observation that all natural forms are based on the cone, the sphere, and the cylinder. Kroll's figures are constructions of volumes - closed and firm. All details are subordinated to the total form: the clarity of the volumes and their relation remains untroubled." (right: Mary (profile), c. 1935, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 1/2 inches, Collection of Jodie and Matthew Carone)

Bolge continues: "Here is a sudden manifestation of the highest plasticism of form combined with a warm sensualism that, nevertheless, breathes classical serenity. This classicism is, moreover, not the result of a romantic nostalgia, but of a Mediterranean, classical substance. He tried to combine the wholeness and order of classical sculpture with a feeling for warm reality." (left: The Baby, 1929, oil on canvas, 41 x 50 inches, courtesy of a private collector, Connecticut)


Biography of Leon Kroll (1884-1974)

Leon Kroll was born in New York to an impoverished music loving family. Kroll, however, was drawn to the visual arts, when as a child he would haunt the old red brick and granite Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was earning his own way at fifteen and earned his tuition for the Art Students League by sweeping floors and washing paint brushes. Kroll's first art instructor was John Henry Twachtman and it was at the League that Winslow Homer recognized his talent and encouraged the young Kroll to pursue a career in painting. From 1906 to 1908 he further studied at the National Academy of Design, there winning a scholarship to study at the Academie Julian in Paris under the tutelage of Jean-Paul Laurens. After one year of study he won the Grand Prix in the concours for painting the nude.

On returning to New York in 1910, Kroll earned critical and popular success with his one-man exhibition at the National Academy of Design. He became associated with a circle of artists that included George Bellows, Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks, Ernest Lawson, and Edward Hopper. In 1913 Kroll participated in the now famous Armory Show that for the first time introduced 'modern' art to the American public and stimulated American artists to revise their attitudes to art and the tradition of representational painting.

Leon Kroll's career was long and successful. He taught and lectured at such prestigious institutions as the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy, and the Chicago Art Institute. He won almost every major prize in painting and is included in the collections of museums throughout the country.

Read more about the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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