Ralph Leon Bagley, oil on canvas, 20 by 24 inches. Signed lower right Ralph L. Bagley.

Ralph Bagley’s career in Central Florida spanned almost 60 years. When he was a child, an aunt gave him a $3.50 paint box she had gotten from Sears Roebuck. Bagley said he was not as proud of his first car as he was of that box of paints and brushes. After completing art studies at the Flint Institute in Missouri, the Art Students’ League in New York, and the Corcoran in Washington, D.C., in 1950 Bagley moved to Orlando.

Bagley opened the Orlando Institute of Art in a house on Magnolia Avenue across the street from the Orange County Vocational School in March 1951. Within a year he was teaching art courses at Orlando Junior College. Later he was chairman of the art department at the college and artist in residence there. By September Bagley was planning a Fall painting excursion with a group of other artists to Fontana Village, North Carolina, in the Great Smoky Mountains. He continued summer trips to Fontana for eight years. 

Ralph Leon Bagley, Smokey Mountains, oil on canvas, 20 by 24 inches. Signed and dated lower left.

One of 125 members of the Florida Artists Group, in 1955 at the Group’s annual symposium and exhibit, his prize-winning painting, “a Florida landscape in deep blues and greens which captured the rich depth of Florida’s tropical clime” was chosen by the director of the National Collection of Fine Arts at the Smithsonian Institution, for national exhibition.

Ralph Leon Bagley, Still Life with Violin, oil on canvas, 18 by 36 inches. Signed lower left Ralph L. Bagley. 

Bagley directed the Orlando Art Institute until 1965 when he, “decided to do other things…. I had full classes all the time. I love to teach. I encourage my students in every way I can. I believe every student’s work is important.”*  When the college closed in 1971 Bagley taught art classes at the Wildwood Community Center, Lake Sumter Community College, Maitland Art Center, Valencia Community College, and the Loch Haven Art Center, now the Orlando Museum of Art.


After his death in 2008 at the age of 91, Bagley’s daughter, Andrea Bagley Harding of Winter Park, recalled, “He didn’t think like the rest of us. He dreamed art.” Bagley is listed in Who’s Who in American Art and Florida Lives, Sunshine State Whose Who, 1966.

Born: May 14, 1913, Bertrand, Missouri. Died: January 8, 2008, Bertrand, Missouri. Education: Flint Institute of Art with Brozik; Art Students’ League in New York City with Lee; Corcoran Gallery School, Washington, D.C. Membership: Florida Federation of Art; Florida Artist Group, vice president, 1958; Orlando Art Association, president, 1951 to 1953; Artist’s League of Orange County, founding member and president, 1958-59; honorary member Sanford-Seminole Art Guild. Exhibits: Eola Plaza, Orlando, one-man exhibit, January 1955; Palm Beach Art League, April 1955, Composition; Florida Artist Group, Annual Circuit, 1955, 1956; Artists’ League of Orange County, November 1958, 2nd prize, professional for Derelct; Florida Artists Group, painting, Cartonnier chosen for National Tour, 1959; Florida Federation of Art, 32nd Annual Exhibition, November 13-28, 1958, Daytona Beach, oil, Rocky Cove; Florida Artists Group, exhibit, Coconut Grove Playhouse, March 1959; Orlando Junior College, January 1960, ten oil paintings; Art Club of St. Petersburg, one man exhibit, January 1962; Ridge Art Association, Winter Haven Public Library, December 1962, one-man exhibit; Florida Artist Group, 14th Annual Exhibition, 1963-1964 at Tampa Art Institute, an oil, Still Life; Art Club of St. Petersburg, February1965; Merchants Association of Winter Park Mall, invitational art show, November 19-20, 1965, judge; Judge for the Art Council of Southwest Florida, 9th Annual, Edison Junior College, Ft. Myers, April 1972; Maitland Art Center, A Retrospective Exhibit, of drawings, January 1972; DeLand Museum of Art, Members Only exhibit, August 1988, 1st prize, Mountain Farm.

*Orlando Sentinel, December 31, 1971.

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