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Leon A. Makielski (1885 - 1974)

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Rarely does one artist perfect the techniques required to produce masterful landscapes, still life paintings and portraits that are as beautiful and meaningful today as they were over a century ago.  Leon Makielski was one of those gifted individuals who devoted his entire adult life to perfecting his skill as a painter.  He was able to capture innocence in a young child’s eyes, life experiences in an aging face, the dramatic composition of a floral still life and the enchantment of American and European landscapes. 

Makielski’s talent was recognized at a very young age and he was blessed with a family who understood the importance of encouraging children to maximize talents in order to enrich not only their own lives, but the lives of others. Elder Gallery’s collection presents drawings and paintings done by an aspiring artist whose love for painting took him down a road filled with excitement, adventure and emotion.  His disciplined approach to his craft enabled him to produce approximately three thousand paintings over the course of his lifetime. 

Leon Makielski was born in Morris Run, Pennsylvania in 1885 and spent the majority of his childhood in South Bend, Indiana.  He studied at The Art Institute of Chicago between 1903 and 1909 and was active in Fox River region near Oregon, Illinois, during the first decade of 1900.  He was awarded the Institute’s prestigious John Quincy Adams Traveling Fellowship for four consecutive years.  He sailed to Paris in 1909 where he studied at Academie Julian and Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.  He was active in the painting community in Giverny from 1909 to 1911.  His talent was recognized and his work selected to be exhibited at Le Salons 1911 and 1912 in Paris.  During his time in Europe he visited England, Italy, Germany, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands prior to returning to the United States in 1913. 

He settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan and taught at the University of Michigan from 1915 until 1927.  After leaving the academic community he devoted his full attention to painting portraits of notable American business leaders, state and national government figures.  His portraits are listed in Smithsonian Institution’s Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery.   In his book entitled Monet’s Giverny, An Impressionist Colony, William H. Gerdts says of Makielski’s paintings:  “The landscapes painted by Leon A. Makielski in 1909 to1911 are the most traditional of any of the colonists, many of them grain-stack pictures that emulate Monet’s series from twenty years earlier.  Judging by the impressive number of his Giverny pictures, Makielski must have been very prolific, concentrating on agrarian subjects, as had Theodore Robinson and others of the first generation.”