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Leon Makielski

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Leon Makielski, American, 1885-1974. A 1940s oil on artist board landscape, titled "Clouds". Signed "Leon A. Makielski" lower right, titled verso. Image 12 x 9 " high, in wooden frame 14 1/2 x 11 1/2" high overall.


Born in Morris Run, Pennsylvania, Leon Makielski grew up in South Bend, Indiana. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1903-1909 with Ralph Clarkson and Rene Menard, and was awarded the Institute’s “John Quincy Adams Traveling Fellowship” four times in a row. In 1909, he went to Paris to study at the Academy Julian, and the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He painted in Giverny from 1909-1911 and exhibited in Le Salon in 1911 and 1912. Makielski’s landscapes show the strong influence of the Impressionists, Monet in particular. Before returning to the United States, he traveled to Germany, Italy, England, Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Back Stateside, Makielski settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan and taught at the University of Michigan from 1915-1927. He then devoted himself full time to his art and began painting portraits of notable figures in American business and politics. His portrait of Dr. Ruben Kahn of the University of Michigan is one of his most well-known portraits, and also painted poet Robert Frost (bought by the University of Michigan), architect Eliel Saarinen, bridge builder Ralph Modjeski, Jesse Bonstelle, S. S. Kresge, Harlan Hatcher (former U of M president), and Laura F. Osborn (which hangs in Osborn High School in Detroit) [see Scarab Buzz (May/June 1972).
The Smithsonian Institution’s Catalog of American Portraits-National Portrait Gallery lists Makielski’s portrait masterpieces. At the beginning of the Depression years, Makielski was commissioned to create portraits of Samuel Vauclain (1856-1940), engineer and inventor of the Vauclain compound locomotive and president of the Baldwin Locomotive Works) and Leopold Stokowski (1885-1947, British-born American conductor) in Philadelphia [see The Scarab 6:1 (Oct. 1930)].
Makielski taught art at the Deaborn Women’s Club [see Scarab Bulletin (Dec. 1960)]. He was a WPA painter, and taught at the Jewish Community Center, the Meinzinger Art School, and the Scarab Club.

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