Rico Lebrun was born in Italy in 1900. After serving in the Italian Army during World War I, he took his first art class at the Naples Academy of Beaux Arts. In the 1920s, Lebrun moved first to Illinois to work at a branch of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, and then to New York City, where he worked as a commercial artist drawing ads and fashion plates for popular magazines. Lebrun used this opportunity to take an extended trip back to Italy where he studied the frescos by the Italian Renaissance artist Luca Signorelli. In 1936, he returned to New York City and finally abandoned commercial art for fine art after his mural was torn down at Fogg Art Museum. The designs, however, earned Lebrun the Guggenheim fellowship for the next two years.
At the end of the 1930s, Lebrun moved to Southern California. In Santa Barbara, he was embraced by the local art community, particularly artist Channing Peake and the Director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art Donald Bear, who would eventually organize Lebrun’s first solo-exhibition. Between 1938 and 1944, Lebrun taught at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and at Walt Disney Studios in the animation department. His talents earned him high regard as a Los Angeles Modernist, which in turn granted him the prominent position as artist-in-residence at SBMA. In 1947, Lebrun turned his artistic eye toward religious experiences and human suffering, creating the Crucifixion series, followed by a series based on the atrocities that took place at Nazi concentration camps.
By the end of the 1950s, Lebrun completed a commissioned mural at Pomona College, Genesis, which still stands on the college campus today. Shortly thereafter, Lebrun became a faculty member at the University of California at Santa Barbara. There he turned his full attention to sculpting stating, “there was no place to carry images except into a third dimension.” Tragically, Rico Lebrun died suddenly in 1964 before he had a chance to fully explore the realm of sculpture.