Lawrence Lebduska

 

Lawrence Lebduska was among the first contemporary self-taught painters to be recognized within the New York mainstream art world. He is best known for his paintings of horses, yet inhis long and varied career the artist addressed a broad range of subjects, including landscapes, portraits, nudes, and still lifes. Lebduska’s earliest paintings tend to bemuted in tonality, while his later works evince a brighter palette, often incorporating vivid pinks and blues.Lebduska was born in Baltimore, Maryland, where his father was employed as a representative of the stained glass firm of Flieder and Schneider in Leipzig, Germany. In 1899 Lebduska’s father returned to Leipzig, where Lebduska thus completed his education.Subsequently, he studied the craft of making stained glass at a school run by his father’s company. While Lebduska had no formal training in art, his experiences withstained glass inspired him to try painting. An early canvas, Bit of Bohemia, garnered a prize at an international exposition, and Lebduska proceeded to studydecorating under the tutelage of Joseph Svoboda in Chrudim, Bohemia. His studies focused on the technical aspects of mixing colors and varnishes.Lebduska returned to the United States in 1912, living first in Baltimore and then moving to New York a year later, where he worked for the noted interior designer Elsie de Wolfe, creating stained glass decorations and murals for private homes. Lebduska also submitted his paintings to exhibition juries around New York. In 1936The Contemporary Gallery gave him his first one-person exhibition, which was favorably reviewed by Howard Devree of The New York Time and launched Lebduska’s reputation within the New York avant-garde. It is said that the exhibition inspired Abby Aldrich Rockefeller to begin her folk art collection, today housedin Williamsburg, Virginia. Other patrons included Eleanor Roosevelt, W.Averell Harriman, and members of the Du Pont family of Delaware. Lebduska participated inthe Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project in New York, and was given exhibitions by the Babcock, Valentine, and Kleeman galleries in New York. In the early 1940s, as interest in self-taught art was waning, Lebduska gradually succumbed to alcoholism. He lived for many years in desperate poverty, until June1960, when he was rescued by the art dealer Eva Lee. With Lee’s encouragement, Lebduska stopped drinking and returned to painting. He had exhibitions at theKrasner Gallery in 1960 and the Tutti Gallery in 1962. Unfortunately, this period of sobriety did not last, and Lebduska’s health began to deteriorate rapidly; he died atthe age of 72.