Exposition Art Blog: Rico Lebrun

Rico Lebrun

Rico (Frederico) Lebrun (December 10, 1900 – May 9, 1964) was an Italy-born, Italian-American painter and sculptor.
Lebrun served in the Italian army during  the last year of  World War I (1917-1918) after which he spent two years  in the Italian navy and studied at the Industrial Institute and the Naples Academy  of Fine Arts. He worked with fresco painters Cambi and Albino in Naples.
As  a designer for a stained glass factory  in Naples, Lebrun was sent to the factory's new branch in Springfield, Illinois, in 1924  as  foreman and instructor in stained-glass technique.
By 1925, Lebrun moved to New York where  he became a highly successful commerical artist for such publications as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and the New Yorker. During this time, he married and together with his wife made  several trips to Italy, where he studied fresco painting with Galimberti in Rome, and  researched  the Signorelli frescoes in Orvieto, Italy. 

Returning to New York in 1933, Lebrun  worked with Louis Rubenstein on a mural at Harvard University's Fogg Museum (the  mural was later walled over).  He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935/36 for a  proposed mural project "Story of the Mines" (which was never executed) and  worked on a WPA mural "River Flood" at the Pennsylvania Station Post Office  Annex in New York.
Two California artists Gridley Barrows (who  later became an architect) and Santa Barbara painter Channing Peake assisted Lebrun on the  WPA project and were instrumental in persuading Lebrun to leave New York and go west to  California, which he did after conflict with the WPA caused the abandonment of the  mural  and the breakup of his marriage.


 Moving to Santa Barbara, CA,  in  1938, Lebrun accepted a teaching  job at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, met  and married Elaine Leonard in 1940, and taught animation at Walt Disney Studios. Donald Bear, director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art organized the first  exhibition of  Lebrun's work at the Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery in Santa Barbara.
During the 1940's Lebrun's work  was  shown in New York at  the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art,  the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which  purchased his painting  "The Bull Ring") and the Julian Levy Gallery gave Lebrun his first one man show.  During  this period of escalating artistic recognition,  Lebrun suffered a personal loss as  his wife Elaine died. Continuing to live and work in Southern California, Lebrun was  appointed  artist-in-residence at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and became an  instructor, and later director,  at the newly formed Jepson Art Institute in Los  Angeles.

In the years before his death of cancer in 1963, Rico Lebrun    received many honors and awards for his work, such as the Temple Gold Medal from  the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Award of Merit from the American Academy in  Arts and Letters and was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. 
Lebrun enjoyed communication not only as  an artist, but as a teacher and as a friend. He  found time to teach at the Instituto  Allende in Mexico (1953), as Visitng Professor at Yale University (1958), and as  artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome (1959).(annexgalleries.com)

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