Leon Kroll (1884–1974), Central Park, New York Posted on July 21st, 2014 by

Central Park, New YorkLeon Kroll (1884–1974)
Central Park, New York, 1937
Oil on masonite panel, 18 x 28 inches
Gift of the Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom, given in memory of Martin and Alma Hillstrom

Kroll, born in New York City, attended the Art Students League, and his first teacher there was the Impressionist painter John H. Twachtman (1853–1902). He later studied in Paris, and when he returned to New York, he gained critical and popular success, and associated with artists such as Robert Henri (1865–1929) and his good friend George Bellows (1882–1925). In the decades before this painting, Central Park suffered from relative neglect, then in 1934, newly-appointed Parks Commissioner Robert Moses began a campaign of refurbishing and cleaning the Park, which became less a destination of just the wealthy and more a place for all New Yorkers. Kroll’s painting shows a secluded and quiet corner of the Park, with rocky terrain and a pond that give it an almost rural feeling in the midst of the crowded City. A young woman is glimpsed on a private stroll, while two other figures can be seen in the middle background. In the distance, somewhat sketchily indicated, is Belvedere Castle, located near the Park’s center, which is situated on the raised “Vista Rock,” a prominence from which fine views of the Park could be had. Kroll painted several works featuring Central Park, including a winter scene of skaters on the frozen pond from 1921. Comments Kroll made about that painting indicate his general attitude towards art and paintings like his Central Park images: “I never paint exactly what’s before me. I select out of nature what I need, using it as a sort of encyclopedia of fact, and then compose it. I shift the buildings, and I shift the trees.” Thus, in this painting, the scene is perhaps more of a romantic evocation of the Park rather than a precisely rendered depiction of some particular spot in it.

Text from the catalogue for the exhibition The Eight, The Ashcan School, and The American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection, presented in the Hillstrom Museum of Art February 25 through April 21, 2013.


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