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.
Leon Kroll’s Female Subjects

Leon Kroll became interested in art as a child. He was born in New York City, and studied there, at the Art Students League. He also attended the Acadèmie Julian in Paris, where he won the Grand Prix for painting the nude model. Although the Ashcan School painters were his friends, Kroll favored idealized and contemplative female figures, rather than the urban, gritty subject matter of the Ashcan artists. In addition to individual female subjects, 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 are characterized by a careful balance of form and color. Despite his academic approach, Kroll achieved great success in his lifetime and won almost every major painting prize.

The Red Tam exhibits Kroll’s mastery of form and color. The juxtaposition of the red tam and the green scarf draws attention to the sitter’s facial features. The portrait is one of three depicting the daughter of Hermon MacNeil, an American sculptor. Of his subjects, Kroll valued “the look in their eyes, their gestures, but all of this organized, with all the care and judgment [he was] capable of, into a beautiful design.”

Hale, Nancy and Fredson Bowers. Leon Kroll: A Spoken Memoir. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983.

Leeds, Valerie Ann. Leon Kroll: Revisited. Santa Fe: 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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