Monday, November 19, 2007

Artists of Lanesville - LEON KROLL

This excerpt is from A Village at Lane's Cove by Barbara H Erkkila recently reprinted and available through Ten Pound Island Book Company. Barbara was the best chronicler of Lanesville and also authored the book Hammers on Stone-The History of Cape Ann Granite available in bookshops around Rockport and Gloucester, and The Cape Ann Museum giftshop.

A Folly Cove artist who, with a strong technique painted river barges in New York, or delicately painted a nude woman in an idyllic garden setting, was Leon Kroll, national academician. He was born in 1884 in New York and studied in Paris under Jean Paul Laurens. That is where he met his future wife, Genevieve.

Mr. Kroll was not a tall man, and certainly was not handsome, but he had a wonderful personality. He often asked for criticisms of his latest work, whether a scene of “The Squall” at Lane’s Cove painted in 1932 or the Worcester War Memorial in 1941.

The artist painted in France in 1924 and taught in Paris. His portrait “Mary at Breakfast” was done at that time. In 1930 he won his first gold medal, the Beck Gold Medal given by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for his canvases, “The Ploughed Field” and “The Path by the Sea.” In 1932 he won the First Altman Prize for the Best Figure Painting for his “Summer, New York.”

Mr. Kroll seemed to be on his way to win perhaps more awards than any artist in America at that time. His painting “Cape Ann” won the Altman Landscape Prize in 1935, his “The Road from the Cove” was awarded the Carnegie First International Prize. At that time, he also did “The Red Tarn” depicting a woman wearing a tam-o’shanter with a scarf to match. His canvas “In the Hills” won the National Academy of Design 96th Annual Thomas E. Clark Prize. In this painting, there is a woman with long hair and a young woman, probably her daughter, against a Folly Cove hillside.

When Mr. Kroll finished his painting Building New York” he was praised for having not just the vision of big things but also the power to visualize them successfully on canvas. Critics commented, “He lifts one into loftier conceptions,” and “Laborers are not necessarily earthbound.” And all is done with strong, vigorous brush strokes.

The Folly Cove artist once tackled a mosaic painting for the chapel dome in Anzio, Italy, which was eighty feet in circumference. It was a “most exacting work and a mathematical problem all the way through.” In 1952 he finished his three-panel mural for the Indiana State Capitol. This work was especially popular among young people in Lanesville, for he called them in to pose for the figures in it. Eino Natti was his assistant at the time.

When he stayed with his wife and daughter, Marie-Claude, at Folly Cove each summer, he painted many nudes. First he asked the model to pose in the garden, later working the figure into the rock background of a granite quarry nearby. “Heroic and handsome, that’s the way women look to me,” said the artist. Speaking of his types of subjects, he said he liked paintings warm with human understanding, the natural gesture, “the touch of people, and landscapes where people live and work and play. I try to express this feeling without being too obvious about it.”

Many Kroll canvases hang in the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute at Pittsburgh and San Francisco Museum of Art.

Mr. Kroll reflected, “An artist is a fortunate human being, and creating something with his hands gives him a grand life.”


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