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Lawrence Lebduska
(1894-1966)

Daybreak. 1960. Oil on canvas.

BIOGRAPHY

Although Lawrence Lebduska was born in Baltimore, Maryland, his parents returned to their native city of Leipzig in East Germany when he was five, when his father’s business in America on behalf of the Leipzig-based stained-glass firm of Flieder & Schneider ended. 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 that 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.

 

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 in Buffalo, and the University of Arizona, among others.