Unidentified photographer, Alicia Bell Legg at Christmas, 1966. Courtesy Pamela J. Link via Ancestry.com
Alicia Bell Legg, Plant, ca. 1947. Engraving, plate: 11 x 6 7/8 in. (27.9 x 17.5 cm); sheet: 14 7/8 x 10 7/8 in. (37.8 x 27.6 cm). Dolan/Maxwell, Philadelphia. Courtesy Dolan/Maxwell.

51. Alicia Bell Legg

Life Dates1915-2002
Place of BirthHackensack, NJ, USA
Place of DeathCockeysville, MD, USA
Birth NameAlicia Bell Legg

Alicia Bell Legg was born into a well-to-do family in Hackensack, New Jersey. Her father was a stockbroker who died unexpectedly of pneumonia in 1929 (luckily, the family was not affected by the stock market crash).1 She attended the Ogontz School for Girls, an elite finishing school for young women in Philadelphia, and there began to learn the basics of art history by perusing the wares a bookseller brought to the school at lunchtime.2 Legg had been interested in art from an early age—in her youth, she took art lessons from a local artist in Hackensack—and she went to the Art Students League after graduating from Ogontz in 1935. While working full-time as a secretary, she studied in life classes led by Peggy Bacon, George Bridgman, and Robert Brackman, and she shifted to printmaking at the League with Harry Sternberg and Will Barnet. Harriet Berger, a good friend of Legg’s—their mothers were neighbors and friends in New Jersey—was also enrolled in Sternberg’s and Barnet’s graphic arts classes. Prints by Legg found in Berger’s estate show she was adept in intaglio and woodblock printmaking. In approximately 1946, Legg went to Atelier 17 along with Berger and another friend, Fannie Hillsmith. There, Legg engraved a still life of a pothos plant, attempting several different types of engraved lines. Although Legg exhibited her work in a few group shows, she realized she needed to pursue another career path. In 1949 she joined the staff of MoMA and rose from the library to a full curatorship. She was also responsible for designing the museum’s garden in 1953.3^71^ Legg retired from the museum in 1987.

Selected Bibliography

Bonte, C. H. “Annual Woodcut Exhibition Featured at the Print Club.” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18, 1945.

“Healy Thinks Norther Vt. Aritsts Over-Highlight Beauties of State.” The Burlington Free Press. March 30, 1945.

Landau, Ellen G. “Alicia Legg.” In Artists for Victory, 64. Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1983.

Legg, Alicia. Oral History Program. Interview by Sharon Zane, June 5, 1991. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.

Schumer, Fran. “A Curator, Her Garden and Her Art.” New York Times, June 10, 1987.

“Sixteenth Annual Norther Vermont Artists’ Exhibition Opens Saturday.” The Burlington Free Press. March 5, 1946.

Notes


  1. Much of the information for this biography comes from Legg’s oral history interview by Sharon Zane, June 5 and October 17, 1991, MoMA Archives, New York.
  2. Penn State University purchased the Ogontz School’s campus in 1950. Thank you to Lillian A. Hansberry of Penn State Abington Library for confirming Legg’s enrollment and searching through school yearbooks.
  3. Fran Schumer, “A Curator, Her Garden and Her Art,” New York Times, June 10, 1987.