Skip to main content

Leon Kroll papers, circa 1900-1988

Biographical Note

Leon Kroll (1884-1974) was a leading realist painter during the 1920s and 1930s.
Born in New York City, Kroll attended classes at the Art Students League as a teenager, and studied painting with John Henry Twachtman. In the early 1900s he began taking classes at the National Academy of Design, where he won student prizes, and had his first major exhibition in 1906. In 1908 he won a scholarship to study art in Paris and attended the Académie Julian, studying at the atelier of Jean-Paul Laurens. Through he practiced realism, Kroll was also influenced by French impressionist painters, specifically Paul Cézanne. While in Paris he also met Genevieve (Viette) Domec. They married later in 1923 and had one daughter, Marie-Claude.
Upon his return to New York in 1910, Kroll had a one man show of his Paris work at the National Academy where he received critical acclaim. The next year he began teaching at the National Academy of Design. During his career, he also taught at the Maryland Institute, Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and was a guest instructor and lecturer at several other schools.
Kroll was part of a circle of New York artists that included several members of "The Eight", and he was especially close with Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Bellows, and Eugene Speicher. During his time in Europe he also became friends with Marc Chagall and Robert and Sonia Delaunay. He exhibited at the Armory Show in 1913 and during the next few decades won numerous major national and international prizes in painting, including first prize at the 1936 Carnegie International Exhibition. He had his first retrospective exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum in 1937. Kroll was especially known for his paintings of female nudes, but also painted New York City street scenes, New England landscapes, and portraits. Beginning in the late 1930s he was commissioned to paint murals at public buildings including, among others, the U. S. Department of Justice Building, the war memorial in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the auditorium at Johns Hopkins University.
Throughout his career Kroll was a very active member of professional arts organizations. He was an Associate and later a Academician at the National Academy of Design, and his memberships included the New Society of Artists; American Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Gravers; Artists Equity Association; Four Arts Aid Association; and the National Institute of Arts and Letters among others. He also served as a board officer for many of these organizations. Kroll was active in the federal arts programs from the 1930s to the 1950s and close friends with Edward Bruce, director of the U.S. Treasury Department's Section for Fine Arts.
Kroll maintained a studio in New York City and spent summers at his home and studio at Folly Cove, Gloucester, Massachusetts. Leon Kroll died in 1974 at the age of 89.