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 Lawrence A. Lebduska  (1894 - 1966)

About: Lawrence A. Lebduska
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Maryland / Germany      Known for: fantasy-naive animal and figure painting, stained glass, murals

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Lawrence Lebduska Self Portrait
crayon on paper
1961

Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Baltimore, Maryland to a Bohemian family, Lawrence Lebduska learned art related crafts at the age of five on a return trip to Bohemia.  He was educated in Leipzig where he learned the stained glass craft.  At the age of 18 he returned to the United States and his first job was with Elsie de Wolfe for whom he did wall decorations.

In 1912, he began decorative mural painting and painting on canvas for pleasure.  Although he had no formal art training, his fanciful animal scenes, portraits and pseudo-historical themes, had bold colors and subjects resembling Fauvre or French experimental painting. His work made quite an impression in the 1930s and is credited for inspiring Abby Aldrich Rockefeller to assemble her collection of folk art.

During the 1940s, he was largely forgotten, with the public preoccupied with the onset of World War II, his career "skidded to the point where he was reduced to living in vermin-infested backrooms in Greenwich Village and the Bowery;" ill and an alcoholic. He would trade his paintings for beer and cigarettes.  Occasionally he would travel uptown to dealers who used to compete for his work.

In the 1960s, a Long Island dealer, Eva Lee, was fascinated by one of his vividly colored still lifes of flowers and set out on a search for the artist.  She found him confined to a bed in a cheap attic room.  She obtained medical care, took him home to Douglastown, Long Island, took care of him and helped him recover from alcoholism.  As a result he regained his health and began to paint again producing dozens of canvases. As a result he was given his first one-man show in twenty years at the Krasner Gallery.

Lebduska died in 1966 at the age of 70, leaving behind a large collection of his work.

Source:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following report was filed by Ms. Fehr, in July of 2006:


Lawrence Lebduska was picked up on the Bowery by Jim Gordon and Elizabeth Fehr who were married at the time and had a gallery called Tutti Gallery on Canal Street.  They got him medical help and an apartment and I, Elizabeth's daughter, who was 15-18 yrs old at the time,  babysat him hours on end as he painted to keep him from being isolated and off liquor.  They gave him a one man show and kept him painting and happy.  After his death in 1966, Elizabeth Fehr was put under contract to do a book on his work and life.  She died before completing it but I have a huge box of photos of his works, and the uncompleted text for the book as well as many of the stuffed animals he used as subjects for his painting.


Biography from Galerie St. Etienne:
Although Lawrence Lebduska was born in Baltimore, Maryland, his parents returned to their native city of Leipzig in East Germany when he was five, as his father’s business in America on behalf of the Leipzig-based stained-glass firm of Flieder & Schneider expired at that time.

Lebduska was educated in Leipzig and studied the craft of making stained-glass at a technical and chemical school run by his father’s company.  While he had no formal training in art, he began to paint by utilizing the knowledge of color which he had gained from making stained-glass.  He won a prize at an international art exposition for his work Bit of Bohemia and went on to study decorating under the tutelage of Joseph Svoboda in Chrudim, Bohemia.

Lebduska returned to the United States in 1912, living first in Baltimore and then moving to New York a year later.  He was commissioned to paint murals by the noted interior designer Elsie de Wolfe, and in subsequent years found employment creating stained-glass decorations and murals for many private homes in New York.  Lebduska submitted his paintings to group shows around New York, notably at the Opportunity Gallery and the Bourgeois Gallery.  It was at the latter that his work was seen by a representative from the Contemporary Gallery, who offered him his first one-man show in 1936.  Howard Devree of The New York Times wrote of the exhibition, “A vivid color-sense, a certain folk-art quality and a kind of dream work fancy are combined in mature fashion.”  It is said that this exhibition--a virtual sell-out--inspired Abby Aldrich Rockefeller to begin her legendary folk art collection, today housed in Williamsburg, Virginia. 

Lebduska later participated in the WPA’s Art Project in New York and was exhibited by the Babcock, Valentine and Kleeman Galleries during the late ‘thirties and early ‘forties.  Although Lebduska became quite ill in the late 1950s, he resumed painting and had a small exhibition at the Tutti Gallery in 1962. 

His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, and the University of Arizona, among others.

Biography from LewAllen Galleries:
Credited for inspiring Abby Aldrich Rockefeller to assemble her legendary folk art collection, artist Lawrence Lebduska never received formal artistic training. He began to paint using the knowledge of color he had gained during his education in the craft of stained-glass.

Born in Baltimore, he returned to the United States in 1912 leaving behind his father’s home in Leipzig, Germany. There he found employment executing mural and stained-glass decorations for noted interior designer Elsie de Wolfe.

In 1936, Howard Devree of The New York Times wrote of Lebduska’s one-man show at the Contemporary Gallery, “A vivid color-sense, a certain folk-art quality and a kind of dream work are combined in mature fashion.”

Known for his fanciful animal scenes and portraits Lebduska’s paintings feature bold colors and subjects resembling French experimental painting.

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