Biographical / Historical
Lawrence Fleischman (1925-1997) of New York City was an American art collector, patron, philanthropist, and benefactor. He and his wife, Barbara Greenberg Fleischman, assembled an impressive collection of art and artifacts that they shared with the public as part of their philanthropic activities aimed at fostering a wider appreciation of the arts around the world.
Lawrence Fleischman was born on February 14, 1925 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Stella and Arthur Fleischman, the owner of a large carpet business. He attended the Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois, and studied engineering at Purdue University. In 1942, he interrupted his studies to volunteer for service in the U.S. Army during World War II. While serving in France, he met a doctor who further fostered Fleischman's ever growing interest in American art. Following the war, he graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Detroit. Fleischman met Barbara Greenberg in Detroit and they were married in 1948.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Fleischman established a fledgling television station, developed holdings in real estate, and began purchasing art work. Initially the Fleischmans collected undervalued 20th century American art and were friends with several artists, including John Marin, Charles Burchfield, Stuart Davis, and Ben Shahn. They also expanded the scope of their collection to include 19th century American works.
During the 1950s, Lawrence Fleischman realized how there were few American art historians and college departments, as well as a lack of primary source material. Fleischman worked with Edgar P. Richardson, then director of the Detroit Institute of Art, to raise funds and they founded the Archives of American Art at the Detroit Institute of Art in 1954. The Archives of American Art was, and still is, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and study of primary source records that document the history of the visual arts in the United States. Lawrence A. Fleischman is a founding Trustee of the AAA and served as the Chairman of the Board from 1958 to 1966. His wife, Barbara joined the Board of Trustees in 1997 and served as Chair from 2003 to 2007. She is a Trustee Emerita.
Lawrence Fleischman's business and philanthropic interests included the Arthur Fleischman Carpet Company, the Lee Plaza Hotel-Motel in Detroit, Art Adventurers, the Art School of the Society of Arts and Crafts in Detroit, the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Cultural Committee of the United States Information Agency, and the Art Commission of Detroit, which governed the Detroit Institute of Art. He also served as an officer of the Board for many of the arts-related organizations.
In 1996, the Fleischmans moved their family from Detroit to New York City, where Lawrence Fleischman became a partner in the Kennedy Galleries.
The Fleischmans philanthropic activities include generous support of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Art, the Cleveland Museum, the British Museum, the Vatican Museum, and lifelong support of the Archives of American Art.
Lawrence Fleischman died on January 31, 1997 in London, England. Barbara Fleischman lives in New York City and continues to be an active supporter of the visual arts.