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Leonard M. Bahr

1905-1990

Bahr was born in Landsdowne, Maryland and spent his childhood helping to make and deliver funeral wreaths for his family’s floral business during the 1918 influenza epidemic. As a young man, he worked for his uncle in Virginia as an illustrator and photo retoucher for the Lynchburg Engraving Company before enrolling at the Maryland Institute (now the Maryland Institute College of Art, or MICA) in 1922. He graduated in 1929 with honors and a prize to tour Europe. While a student, he served as an assistant to Henry Roben and met fellow student Florence E. Riefle whom he married in 1934. Bahr joined the Maryland Institute faculty in 1929 where he taught beginning and advanced painting classes.

Bahr received his first portrait commission in 1930 for two portraits of Baltimore Mayor James H. Preston. As a member of the Works Progress Administration, Bahr executed murals for the Municipal Aquarium at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore and the Catonsville High School in Baltimore County. Having an interest in religious themes, he produced an altar painting, Christ at Gethsemane, for Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Landsdowne. In 1933, he published a book of his drawings depicting the 23rd Psalm; in the same year, his work was included in the first annual Maryland Painters, Sculptors and Printmakers exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

During World War II, Bahr served as a U.S. Naval officer where he illustrated Navy life and taught plane and ship recognition while stationed in Florida. He retired as a Lieutenant Commander from the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1952. Bahr retired with honors for service from MICA in 1980 where he had taught for 52 years.  

Bahr’s work is included in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Arizona, and The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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