Biographical / Historical
Painter, muralist, and educator Rico (Frederico) Lebrun (1900-1964) lived and worked in New York City and Los Angeles, California, and his modernist works were primarily influenced by traditional religious iconography and human suffering.
Born in Naples, Italy, Lebrun attended the Naples Academy of Beaux Arts after his military service in the Italian Army during WWI. He began his career as a stained glass designer and was offered a one year contract to work in Springfield, Illinois, for the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in 1924. At the end of the contract, Lebrun moved to New York City where he found work as a commercial illustrator for magazines such as Vogue, Fortune, and The New Yorker. After a return to Italy in the early 1930s to continue his art studies, Lebrun moved to New York City in 1936 where he taught at the Art Students League, painted his first mural commission for the Fogg Art Museum with Lewis Rubenstein, and found work as an artist for the WPA.
In 1938, Lebrun moved to Southern California and accepted a position at the Chouinard Art Institute, where his students would include Disney studio animators for Bambi. Lebrun continued to produce paintings while teaching, and his first solo exhibition was organized by Donald Bear, then director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Beginning in 1947, Lebrun spent three years working on over 200 drawings and paintings for the Crucifixion series, which culminated in an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, he continued to teach at the Jepson Institute in Los Angeles and at other institutions, including the Instituto Allende in San Miguel, Mexico from 1952 to 1954. In 1958, while teaching at Yale, Lebrun was invited by professor and art critic Peter Selz to create a mural for Pomona College. He completed his plans for the mural during his year-long teaching residency at the American Academy of Rome in 1959, and completed Genesis in 1960. Lebrun died from cancer in 1964.