April 14, 2005 by

Libby Dengrove


Categories: Artists, Media

Ida Libby Dengrove, a courtroom artist who won two Emmy Awards for her illustrated coverage of the “Son of Sam” trial of David Berkowitz and the “Murder at the Met” trial of Craig S. Crimmins, died on April 13 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 86.
Born in Philadelphia to Russian immigrants, Dengrove attended Moore College of Art and studied in Europe on a John Frederick Lewis Memorial Fellowship. She honed her skills during World War II by drawing portraits of wounded soldiers and Army recruits for the U.S.O. In the midst of her war-time travels, she also met her future husband, Edward Dengrove, a psychiatrist who served as a surgeon in China.
Upon their return to the states, the couple wed and settled in New Jersey. Edward opened a home-based practice while Libby raised their three children and continued her training in an upstairs studio. They were married for 64 years, until his death in 2003.
In 1972, NBC News advertised its need for a courtroom artist. Dengrove heard about the job, grabbed her sketchpad and hopped on a Manhattan-bound train. She didn’t bother to set up an appointment; she just walked into NBC Studios and requested a try-out. During her job interview, Dengrove drew sketches of the person in front of her.
She was hired on the spot.
For the next 15 years, Dengrove’s artwork accompanied the network’s trial stories, including the Jonestown massacre, the Mafia and John Lennon’s deportation. As America’s first courtroom television artist, she was able to work around a judicial ban on cameras and efficiently record famous cases in inks and oils. Dengrove discussed her broadcasting experiences in the 1990 memoir, “My Days in Court: Unique Views of the Famous and Infamous by a Court Artist.”
In recent years, Dengrove suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She never stopped drawing, however, and was known for creating portraits of the people living in her nursing homes.

5 Responses to Libby Dengrove

  1. Barry Thau

    Ida Libby Dengrove was a kind, gracious, thoughtful person. I was seeing her husband Edward for a number of years and would occasionally see her since his office was part of their home. She wrote in her book “MY DAYS IN COURT” of Jackie Kennedy Onasis, that she was the most dignified personality that she sketched during her fifteen-year courtroom career. Mrs. Dengrove was the most dignified person i have ever met. Mrs. Onasis was involved in a 1983 case where Mrs. Dengrove was the courtroom sketch artist.

  2. Mary Ryan-Waters

    My Dad, Judge Edward Ryan died suddenly in February of this year. I was delighted to find a scetch drawn by Ida of my Dad in his courtroom for a show that aired on Newscenter4 in 1979. It is remarkable. I refraqmedit, and have it in my living room. It is quite a tribute to my Dad. I smile at my Dad’s likeness every Dad and also think fondly of Ida.
    Thanks Ida for this lasting memory of my Dad.
    Mary and family

  3. r.schiaffo

    dear sir or madem I have a drawing that was done buy this atriste and given to my father judge Al schiaffo in 1983 but not what trial it related to if you know iworld like find out there must have been a reason for her not saying at the time

  4. andrea dengrove

    Libby was actually my great aunt. Though i did not ever meet her, I’ve heard wonderful stories about her, and am sad that I never got 2 meet this wonderful person. I’ve seen some of the artwork shes done, and its fatastic, i hope i may be lucky enough too inherit her talent.

  5. Ray Houston Miller

    I met Ida Libby Dengrove at the 3rd Annual Christian Brothers Art show in 1978. I purchased the oil painting of “The Watergate Trial of 1973” from her at the show as Attorney Peter Flemings grandfather John Fleming had donated the horse farm that helped create our high school.
    At that time I was having a hard time helping get my foster son into my alma mater & I was also running a 10 year reunion for the Class of 1968.
    Ida Libby Dengrove & I made a handshake agreement that one day I would utilize the oil painting to help foster youth like my first foster son
    Kerry Patrick Waters.
    Today I am trying to market full size color photographic prints of this historic US trial that occurred in Federal District Courtroom #3.

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