Leonard Bahr

Leonard Marion Bahr (May 12, 1905 - July 25, 1990) was a prolific portrait painter as well as a painting teacher for 52 years at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Of German descent in the Fox/Bahr line, he was born May 12, 1905, and grew up on Elizabeth Ave. in Lansdowne, Maryland. As a boy, he helped make and deliver funeral wreaths, for his grandmother and aunt's florist business, during the deadly Influenza of 1918. As a young man, his next job took him to Virginia as an illustrator and photo retoucher for the Lynchburg Engraving Co., owned by his uncle, Ed Stevens.

In the mid '20's, he became a student at the Maryland Institute (now "MICA"), was granted faculty stipends to continue his studies, and graduated with honors and a prize to tour Europe in 1929. As an art student, he also taught as an assistant to Henry Roben, a painting professor at the Institute's Night School, and in 1930, met another art student, Florence Riefle, to whom he married four years later. He made some choice friendships at the Institute -- such as Raymond Creekmore, who remained a life-long friend, as well as Steve and Henry Berge.

Early in his career, Leonard (of Christian faith) wanted to paint for the "church" and produced an altar painting of "Christ at Gethsemane" installed in Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Lansdowne, and he also painted other works throughout his life of biblical themes. A book of his drawings depicting the 23rd Psalm of David was published in 1933. Leonard also painted murals for the Works Progress Administration during the "Great Depression," including 2 for the Municipal Aquarium at Druid Hill Park, and 2 for the Catonsville High School, depicting the marriage of Polly Caton and the rolling of tobacco by slaves along Rolling Road to the Elkridge seaport. The preliminary drawing for that mural is held at the Smithsonian.

Leonard served as a Naval officer during WWII, teaching "plane and ship recognition." He was stationed in Hollywood and Jacksonville, FL and retired from the Naval Reserve as Lt. Commander in 1952. In June 1947, and with three children (Elizabeth, Len, Jr., and Mary Shafer, respectively), Leonard and Florence moved from Baltimore City to Elkridge, (Howard County) Maryland, to Edgewood Cottage, an historic house on Lawyers Hill. By 1966, they built new studios and a new home on the same property.

Throughout his career, Leonard painted many portrait commissions, including Bishop Noble C. Powell, various doctors and administrators at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and other prominent individuals. The State of Maryland commissioned him to replicate an historical portrait of Daniel Carroll to be exhibited at the State House. Leonard served on art boards and juries and exhibited his work widely, winning many prizes for his painting. His history and artworks have been published and are corporately and privately owned nationally, including the University of Arizona, The Peabody Conservatory, The Baltimore Museum of Art and The Johns Hopkins Hospital, to name a few. The Maryland Historical Society has photos of Leonard painting outdoors (photographed by friend and Maryland photographer, Emily Hayden). And, in 1980, Leonard retired from MICA with honors for service.