check out these wild drawings + sculptures by,

Artist + teacher


Lebrun was born on December 10, 1900 in Naples, Italy. His formal art education consisted of attending technical school and art classes at night, studying the Old Masters in museums, and assisting fresco painters. He was profoundly influenced by both Italian and Spanish art, Naples having been ruled by Spain almost continuously from the mid-16th to the late 18th century. His admiration for fresco tradition, his preference for ambitious subjects addressed on a grand scale, and the baroque sweep of his style all reflect the heritage of Italian art; his high seriousness of purpose, as well as a certain preoccupation with tragedy and death, can be attributed to the influence of Spain. Alongside the always-powerful influence of Michelangeo, he maintained a lifelong affinity for Goya and Picasso.

Lebrun immigrated to the United States in 1924 to design stained glass. The next year the artist settled in New York, where he built a successful commercial art practice as a fashion illustrator and advertising artist. By 1930, Lebrun was prosperous, but dissatisfied. He abandoned his business and entered the field of fine arts. After a move to Southern California in 1938, Lebrun taught at the Chouinard Art Institute and then at the Disney Studios, working with animators on the figure of Bambi for the forthcoming feature film. In 1935 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his first mural project; in 1942, he exhibited in "Americans 1942" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His work appeared in group exhibitions at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum.

R. B. in his studio

In 1947, Lebrun became master instructor at the new Jepson Art Institute in LA. He was a charismatic and popular teacher, frequently lecturing to standing room only crowds. From 1947 to 1950, his style becoming increasingly abstract and gestural, Lebrun also worked on his ambitious Crucifixion cycle, now in the Syracuse University. collection. By the end of the decade Lebrun had garnered a considerable reputation on the West Coast, both as an artist and as a teacher. Lebrun was very influential on other artists of the time such including former students, Leonard Baskin, Howard Warshaw, Morton Traylor, and my former professor David Passalacqua.

In 1952, the artist left Southern California for Mexico, where he taught at the Institute of San Miguel de Allende. After briefly experimenting with formal abstraction there, Lebrun returned to Los Angeles in 1954 and resumed his prior interest in the human figure, beginning a series of drawings and paintings to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust. He continued to teach, with his students at this time including John Baldessari whom Lebrun encouraged in 1957 to consider a career as an artist. In 1958, Lebrun taught at  Yale and the next year served as an artist in residence in Rome. When he returned to Southern California in 1960, he began working on the Genesis mural at Pomona collage Lebrun then worked on a smaller scale after the mural's dedication in 1961, making drawings and prints for Dante's Inferno. Becoming ill with cancer in 1963, Rico Lebrun died on May 9 the following year at his home in malibu, Ca.  



Believe it or not...
He had the artists draw from live animals rather than flat photography. During the animation of BAMBI, Lebrun was brought into WALT DISNEY STUDIO'S  to teach a 6 week class on how to draw animals and how they actually moved.  The artist's were put through an intensive series of training on  life drawing + animal anatomy. 


These are pages from Lebrun's Disney style guide for the artist's.


ABOVE is a Homage drawing of  R. L. by friend,  Leonard Baskin,