Leon Dabo was an American tonalist landscape artist best known for his paintings of New York, particularly the Hudson Valley. His paintings were known for their feeling of spaciousness, with large areas of the canvas that had little but land, sea, or clouds. During his peak, he was considered a master of his art, earning praise from such luminaries as John Spargo, Bliss Carman, Benjamin De Casseres, Edwin Markham, and Anatole Le Braz. His brother, Scott Dabo, was also a noted painter.More ...
Leon Dabo (July 9, 1864 – November 7, 1960) was an American tonalist landscape artist best known for his paintings of New York, particularly the Hudson Valley. His paintings were known for their feeling of spaciousness, with large areas of the canvas that had little but land, sea, or clouds. During his peak, he was considered a master of his art, earning praise from such luminaries as John Spargo, Bliss Carman, Benjamin De Casseres, Edwin Markham, and Anatole Le Braz. His brother, Scott Dabo, was also a noted painter.
Dabo, the eldest of three brothers (he also had five sisters), was possibly born in Paris, France but recently available documents state he was born in Saverne. His father Ignace Scott Dabo was a professor of aesthetics and a classical scholar, who moved the family to Detroit, Michigan in 1870 to escape the Franco-Prussian War. He supplemented Leon's formal education with Latin, French, and drawing. After his father's death in 1883, the Dabo family moved to New York City, whereupon he found a job as an architectural designer, working to support the family so that his younger brother Scott, who was considered the talented one, could focus on his art. He then became a student of John LaFarge, and the two of them would remain close friends until LaFarge's death. When Dabo decided to pursue studies in Paris, LaFarge wrote letters of introduction, enabling Dabo to meet Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who would become his mentor, and to gain entry to the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs. He also studied part-time at the Académie Colarossi and the École des Beaux-Arts. Although Impressionism was gaining hold at this time, Dabo did not find that movement to his taste.
Dabo also studied briefly at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich, but the nascent form of German Expressionism did not appeal to him and he moved on to Italy, where he stayed for three years. This was followed by a year in Nancy, France, studying color with Émile Lauge, a physicist. Finally, he spent some time in London around 1886, where he made the acquaintance of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who also apparently was a fellow student of Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre with Dabo's father. Whistler would have a profound influence on Dabo's style.
While in London, Dabo met Mary Jane "Jennie" Ford, they married in 1889 and the couple had two children: Madeleine Helen (b. 1891) and Leon Ford "George" (b. 1892), Leon and Jennie would separate in the 1920s. After Jennie's death in 1945, Dabo officially married his "wife" since the 1930s, Stephanie Ofenthal.
He returned in New York in 1890 and began his career as a muralist, but by the beginning of the 20th century had turned to painting landscapes instead. For years, Dabo's paintings were rejected for exhibition by the major juries of the United States, until respected French painter Edmond Aman-Jean recognized his talents and began showing Dabo's work in France, whereupon he became a major success. His work was on display in museums all around the world, including Musée du Luxembourg, the National Gallery of Canada, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Noted critics such as Sadakichi Hartmann, Royal Cortissoz and J. Nilson Laurvik showered praise on his paintings.
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