The Red Tam

Leon Kroll (American, 1884-1974)

Currently on View in K205
Image Licensing

  • The sleek beauty of contemporary fashion photography, an emerging genre in the 1920s, inspired Kroll’s depiction of an idealized female wearing a tasteful ensemble.
  • According to a letter penned by Kroll, the artist sought to combine the “vigorous form” of this portrait with “powerful color harmony.” Indeed, the complementary colors of the green scarf and red woolen cap—or tam—achieve a vibrant effect against the otherwise neutral palette.
  • Kroll executed two drawings and three oil paintings of his model, Joie, the teenaged daughter of American sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil. This portrait was the last he completed before her untimely death in 1928.
Curatorial Summary

Leon Kroll was born in New York City and became interested in art as a child. He studied at the Art Students League in New York and at the Académie Julian in Paris, where he won the Grand Prix for painting the nude. Although the Ashcan School painters were his friends, Kroll’s realism favored female figures that are often idealized and contemplative, rather than the gritty Urban Realism of the Ashcan artists. In addition to single female figures, Kroll painted figural groups, landscapes, and still lifes. Kroll’s traditional approach to painting and his choice of conventional subjects were at odds with some of the modernist, experimental attitudes of his day. He regarded stable design as the most important element of painting, and his works exhibit a careful balancing of form and color, often achieving a grand, almost classical, order. Despite being a traditionalist in a fast-moving modernist art world, Kroll achieved great success in his lifetime and won almost every major painting prize.

The Red Tam exhibits Kroll’s careful balancing of form and color. The flow of the red tam into the green scarf enlivens the simplified volumes of the sitter’s face. The painting is one of three Kroll portraits of the daughter of American sculptor Hermon MacNeil. Kroll said he loved to paint figures clothed and unclothed, “the look in their eyes, their gestures, but all of this organized, with all the care and judgment I am capable of, into a beautiful design.”


Kroll, Leon. Foreword to Exhibition of Paintings by Leon Kroll. Buffalo, NY: Albright Art Gallery, 1929. Published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title, organized by and presented at the Albright Art Gallery, October 6-27, 1929. Quoted in Wilbur D. Peat, “Three New Paintings.” Bulletin of the Art Association of Indianapolis, Indiana 17, no. 2 (February-March 1930): 9-10. The artist's quote is on page 10.

Kroll, Leon. Leon Kroll: A Spoken Memoir. Edited by Nancy Hale and Fredson Bowers. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Art Museum, 1983.

Leeds, Valerie Ann. Leon Kroll: Revisited. New York: Gerald Peters Gallery, 1998.

Purchased from the artist

Object Information

Leon Kroll (American, 1884-1974)
creation date
oil on canvas
19-1/2 x 15 in.
25-5/8 x 21 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed, l.r.: Leon Kroll
accession number
credit line
Purchased from the George T. Carleton Bequest
© Leon Kroll
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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