The papers of realist painter, muralist, and educator Leon Kroll date from circa 1900 to 1988 and measure 8.7 linear feet. The collection documents Kroll's painting career, teaching, and active participation in numerous art organizations. Over one-half of the collection is correspondence with artists, schools, galleries, museums, patrons, arts organizations, and others. Also found are scattered biographical material, writings and notes, legal and financial records, exhibition catalogs, clippings, other printed material, photographs of Kroll and colleagues, loose drawings and nine sketchbooks.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of realist painter, muralist, and art instructor Leon Kroll date from circa 1900 to 1988 and measure 8.7 linear feet. The collection documents Kroll's painting career, teaching, and active participation in numerous art organizations. Over one-half of the collection is correspondence with artists, schools, galleries, museums, patrons, arts organizations, family members, and others. Also found are scattered biographical material, writings and notes, legal and financial records, exhibition catalogs, clippings, other printed material, photographs of Kroll and colleagues, loose drawings, and nine sketchbooks.
Biographical material contains chronologies, biographical essays, awards, price lists, interview transcripts, and a file about the Committee on Government and Art. More than one-half of the collection consists of Kroll's personal and professional correspondence with artists such as Gifford Beal, George Biddle, Isabel Bishop, Barry Faulkner, William Glackens, Robert Henri, Paul Manship, Hobart Nichols, Eugene Speicher, Maurice Stern, Esther Williams, and many others. Additional correspondence is with art critics, curators, dealers, students, patrons, schools, museums, and numerous arts organizations. There is also extensive correspondence with arts administrators regarding government art projects, especially his friend and fellow artist Edward Bruce, Director of the U. S. Treasury Department's Section for Fine Arts.
Writings and notes by Leon Kroll including autobiographical essays, drafts of lectures and speeches, lists, and other scattered notes. Also found is a small amount of writings by others, including an essay by Julia Langsam describing her experience as an artist's model for Kroll. Legal and financial records include contracts, loan agreements, art sales receipts, and several ledgers recording consignments and monthly receipts and expenditures. One ledger specifically documents financial transactions for Kroll's mural commissions for the Justice Department and the Worcester War Memorial.
Printed material contains numerous news clippings about Kroll and his work and includes several articles written by Kroll. Also found are exhibition announcements and catalogs for Kroll's solo exhibitions, material about the Worcester War memorial, and miscellaneous printed items.
Photographs include one of Kroll with his family, Kroll in his studio and working on murals, and several of him with other artists as jurors for art exhibitions. Artists pictured include Isabel Bishop, Reginal Marsh, John Sloan, Raphael Soyer, Eugene Speicher, and others. Also found are photographs of Edward Bruce, as well as photographs of exhibitions, artwork by Leon Kroll, and artwork by others. All of the original artwork in this collection is by Leon Kroll and includes loose drawings and ten sketchbooks containing drawings of landscapes, figures, portraits, and animals.
The collection is arranged into 7 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1906-1977 (Boxes 1, 7; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1905-1988 (Boxes 1-4, 7; 3.8 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1920s-1972 (Box 4-5, 7; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 4: Legal and Financial Records, circa 1914-1985 (Boxes 5, 7; 1.0 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1920s-1987 (Boxes 5-6, 8-9; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1900-1979 (Boxes 6, 8-10; 1.7 linear feet)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1910-1950s (Boxes 6, 8; 0.4 linear feet)
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.
Leon Kroll donated a portion of his papers in 1968. His widow, Genevieve Kroll, donated the rest of the papers in 1976. Two additions were donated in 2019, via Cory Churches and the Estate of Grace Pugh, both descendants of Kroll.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
The Leon Kroll papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.