- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Eugene Leake Jr., 93, renowned artist

BALTIMORE (AP) — Eugene Walker Leake Jr., a renowned landscape painter credited with reviving the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), has died. He was 93.

Mr. Leake died Friday in his sleep at his home in Monkton, surrounded by the green rolling hills and bucolic fields that inspired much of his work.

“He seemed to understand every inch of the landscape he was painting,” said Costas Grimaldis, whose Baltimore gallery exhibited Mr. Leake’s work regularly. “He had an absolute joy for painting, and you could see it in his paintings.”

Mr. Leake painted until just a few years before his death, depicting the view from the window of his old barn or off to the side of the road as he drove the meandering roads of Baltimore County.

“The landscape here is absolutely beautiful,” he told the Baltimore Sun in 2002. “I just love the horses in it, and I love the snow. I love the whole kit and kaboodle of it.”

Mr. Leake, known as “Bud” to his friends, was born Aug. 31, 1911, in Jersey City, N.J., and grew up in nearby Montclair. In 1939, he married Nora Bullitt of Louisville, Ky. During World War II, he worked in a defense plant and then joined the Navy, serving in the Pacific aboard a landing ship for tanks.

In 1961, he was appointed president of MICA.

“You cannot imagine what a desolate and moribund institution it was in the late ‘50s,” said Craig Hankin, author of the book “Maryland Landscapes of Eugene Leake.”

“The place was just about out of gas. He built it back up. He laid the groundwork for what MICA has become.”

Fred Lazarus, MICA’s current president, said Mr. Leake increased the school’s prestige.

“He’s really the person responsible for changing the institution from a small institution to one that had a real national reputation,” Mr. Lazarus said.

Mr. Leake retired from MICA in 1974. He set up a small studio at Johns Hopkins University after being named the school’s first artist-in-residence. Soon, he had inspired a full-fledged undergraduate program, called the Homewood Art Workshops. Mr. Leake retired again in 1986.

He devoted much of his newfound free time to painting.

“In his retirement, he flowered,” said his eldest daughter, Nora L. Cameron of the District. “He did some of his best painting in his 70s and 80s.”

His first wife died in 1980. He married Victoria Costello of Pikesville in 1983.

In 1999, Mr. Leake was presented the University of Maryland University College’s first Maryland Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.

A private celebration of Mr. Leake’s life is being planned.

Besides his wife and daughter, Mr. Leake is survived by another daughter, Nina L. Richardson of the District, and three grandchildren.

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