1884 - 1974
Leon Kroll was one of this country’s most productive and successful artists of the 20th century. A well-regarded teacher and the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions during his life time, Kroll was also a central figure in Cape Ann’s summer art colony for many years. This painting, showing Babson Farm Quarry at Halibut Point in Rockport was done on one of Kroll’s earliest visits to the area when the granite industry was still thriving on Cape Ann.
Kroll was born in New York City and studied at the Art Students League under John Twatchman and at the National Academy of Design. Between 1908 and 1910, Kroll studied in Paris at the Académie Julian; during these years, Kroll discovered Paul Cezanne, the influences of whom are readily apparent in early works such as this one. Upon returning to America, Kroll’s work was exhibited in 1913 at the Amory Show. By the 1920s he had begun teaching, at the National Academy of Design and at the Art Institute of Chicago.
During the 1930s, Leon Kroll and his wife Genevieve (whom he had met in France) began spending time in Gloucester’s Folly Cove neighborhood, not far from Halibut Point. In 1944 they purchased a property there, and for the rest of their lives divided their time between Cape Ann and New York City. The Krolls and their daughter, Marie-Claude, quickly formed friendships with many of the other artists living and working in the area including Paul Manship, Walker Hancock, Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios and George Demetrios.
While Leon Kroll is best known for his figure studies, early works such as this one comprise an important chapter in the artist’s career. They also capture a notable period in the history of Cape Ann. The Babson Farm Quarry was in operation from the 1840s through 1929. In 1895, the site had been purchased by the Rockport Granite Company and by the time Kroll did this painting in 1913 four derricks and the steam locomotive Nella were busy transporting stone out of the pit, along the shore to a wharf at Folly Cove and over to Rockport Harbor where construction of a breakwater was underway. The hard scrabble, industrious scene which captured Kroll’s imagination was quickly becoming a thing of the past, however. In 1915, funds for the breakwater project were cut off and in 1929 operations at the Babson Farm Quarry shut down entirely as did operations at other quarries across Cape Ann.