The Unbridled Paintings of Lawrence Lebduska presents the rare opportunity to see works by one of the most popular modern folk-art painters

Orlando, FL — November 14, 2018

The Mennello Museum of American Art is pleased to announce The Unbridled Paintings of Lawrence Lebduska. This exhibition will be on view at the Mennello Museum­ from January 25 through May 12, 2019.

This exhibition presents the rare opportunity to experience the notable paintings of Lawrence Lebduska, one of the most popular modern folk-art painters of 1930s America. Lebduska’s dreamlands and invented gardens teem extraordinarily with life and optimism in a nostalgic, uncorrupted style that captured the admiration of the American public. These intrinsically painted Edens propelled the artist and his work to celebrity among galleries, collectors, and museums during the rise of the avant-garde movement taking hold of the art world in New York and abroad.

Shannon Fitzgerald, Mennello Museum Executive Director, states, “I am delighted to be sharing the wonderful world of Lawrence Lebduska with our audiences. Especially in a time of conflict, Lebduska takes us away to magical spaces full of respite and folly, harmony and nature.  This exhibition revisits Lebduska’s remarkable place in art history, at a time when ‘self-taught’ was not even considered a term in the art market, and in that way, the artist’s work was radical—how exciting is that?”

Lebduska earned his first solo show in 1936 at the Contemporary Gallery in New York City nearly selling out his works, a show thought to have ignited Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s passion for collecting folk art. Lebduska was also included in the famed 1938 exhibition Masters of Popular Painting shown at the Museum of Modern Art, which included his piece Bohemian Kitchen(1936, oil on board. Collection of Carl and Marian Mullis), showing once more to the public for this exhibition.

Lebduska was an outsider artist who navigated the intensifying New York art scene without the academic training and institutional tenure of his contemporaries. Born in Baltimore in 1894, Lebduska was raised in East Germany and trained as a stained-glass artist in Bohemia. He harnessed his skills as an artisan, translating these methods of formal expression through lively color fields to create the characteristic scenes and figures of his paintings. Lebduska’s creations reveal a smart and personal reaction to the art world during the 1930s – 1960s, exploring themes of life as an artist, art movements, and the allure exotic animals.

Lebduska’s dreamscapes favor peaceful visions of a world abundant with flowers and a menagerie of exotic animals, though some allude to lower points of the World Wars and the Great Depression. He is most often compared to the “wild beast,” French Fauve, Henri Rousseau. Like Rousseau, Lebduska did not confine his work and depictions to places he had ventured. Rather, Lebduska pulled inspiration from the mysterious lands shown in the magazines of his patrons, the veracity of foreign animals of the zoo, and the ideal spaces where he wished to spend his life.

The Unbridled Paintings of Lawrence Lebduska is curated by Katherine Navarro, Marilyn L. Mennello Associate Curator of Education. The Mennello Museum is thrilled to present paintings from the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Fenimore Museum, Gallerie St. Etienne, as well as those from our permanent collection, and the private collections of Michael A. Mennello, Anne Cochran Grey, PhD, Mary L. Demetree, Josh Feldstein, and Carl and Marian Mullis. Lebduska’s work can also be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art among others.

A full-color catalog will accompany the exhibition with essays by Mehna Herders-Reach and curator Katherine Navarro.



Please save the date for the opening reception of  The Unbridled Paintings of Lawrence Lebduska

Opening Reception
Friday, January 25, 2019

Members-only Preview
5:30–6:30 p.m.

Public Reception
6:30–8:00 pm

Free for members  |  $10 for Guests



Hi-res images:


Lawrence Lebduska, Self Portrait, Asleep with Creatures, 1943, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Museum Purchase, N0012.2000. Photo by Richard Walker.

Lawrence Lebduska, Landscape with Horses, 1934. Collection of the Mennello Museum of American Art.

Lawrence Lebduska, Antelopes Drinking, 1947. Collection of Michael A. Mennello.

Mission, Vision and Values

The Mennello Museum of American Art endeavors to preserve, exhibit, and interpret our outstanding permanent collection of paintings by Earl Cunningham. The Mennello Museum of American Art also seeks to enrich the public through temporary exhibitions, programs, educational initiatives, and publications that celebrate other outstanding traditional and contemporary American art and artists across a broad range of disciplines to reflect the rich diversity of American art, while making it accessible to all. The Museum also shares extraordinary works of American art donated by our founders, the Honorable Marilyn Logsdon Mennello and Michael A. Mennello.

The vision of the Mennello Museum of American Art to be a distinguished and thriving institution that will build on its City of Orlando base of support through strong board and community relationships resulting in an improved operating environment and a reputation for being a local and national treasure.

Quality. We believe the City of Orlando deserves only the best; we aim to excel at everything we do.

Accessibility. We believe in creating a welcoming space and experience for all; we are friendly, welcome diversity, and are inclusive of all.

Curiosity. We never stop learning or thinking; we continually push boundaries and explore new ideas and strive to remain relevant and provide meaningful experiences.

Collaboration. We believe community partners are essential to mutual success; we work to build relationships and co-create with individuals and organizations.

Stewardship. The Museum will serve in perpetuity; to ensure this, we build and care for our collections, make smart use of our financial resources, and continually invest in our future.

Accountability. We exist to benefit the community; we demonstrate our success and value to the residents of Orlando and our visitors.

About the Museum

The Mennello Museum of American Art, owned and operated by the City of Orlando, is located on the beautiful shore of Lake Formosa in Orlando’s Loch Haven Cultural Park. The museum provides residents and visitors welcoming opportunities to understand and value creativity through innovative experiences with art further connecting it to nature and communal gathering. Our goal is to encourage creative and diverse experiences with art that nurtures audiences while reflecting the dynamic relationship between art and society.  In addition to housing the permanent collection of folk modernist Earl Cunningham, the museum presents temporary exhibitions that feature a broad range of American art from traditional to contemporary practices.

On view through January 13, 2019:

Shifting Gaze: A Reconstruction of The Black & Hispanic Body in Contemporary Art

View all of our upcoming events:

The Mennello Museum is located at 900 E. Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803.

Website  ·  Facebook  ·  Instagram  ·  Twitter

The exhibitions and the Mennello Museum of American Art are generously supported by the City of Orlando and Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art. Additional funding is provided by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program and United Arts of Central Florida. Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

Download this Press Release.

Francesca Ascione
Marketing & Graphic Design Coordinator
The Mennello Museum of American Art and Public Art, City of Orlando