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Allen Leepa, founder of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, dies at age 90

TARPON SPRINGS — Allen Leepa, who gave millions of dollars in art and cash to found the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, died Friday, June 26, at his home in New Port Richey after a long illness. He was 90.

Dr. Leepa was an abstract expressionist artist, professor and writer whose stepfather was Abraham Rattner, a highly regarded early 20th century artist. Rattner lived in Paris during the early years of modernism and was a contemporary of the group that formed there, foremost among them Pablo Picasso.

Rattner married Dr. Leepa's mother, Esther Gentle, in 1949. When she died in 1991, Dr. Leepa and his late wife, Isabelle, inherited his stepfather's estate, which included paintings by Rattner and his contemporaries.

The Leepas gave the Rattner collection, many of Leepa's own paintings and works by his mother, who also was an artist, to St. Petersburg College in 1996. The college opened the Leepa-Rattner Museum on its Tarpon Springs campus in January 2002.

The Leepas also gave a cash gift of $2 million, partly for endowment and partly to build the museum. The value of the Rattner collection was estimated in 1998 at $17.5 million and earned Leepa a ranking of 31st among Fortune magazine's top 40 philanthropists that year.

Allen Leepa was born on Jan. 9, 1919, in Brooklyn, New York. He and his mother moved to California during his youth. He had an aptitude for art and studied at the Hans Hoffman School in New York and the Bauhaus School of Design in Chicago.

He received a master of fine arts degree in 1947 and a doctorate in education in 1961. Both degrees were from Columbia University. He was an art professor at Michigan State University from 1945 until his retirement in 1983. He is the author of a biography of Abraham Rattner and of The Challenge of Modern Art, a popular book for art history classes in its fifth printing.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lennie@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8293.

IF YOU GO

A tribute

Dr. Allen Leepa's life and career will be celebrated at a tribute at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 Klosterman Road in Tarpon Springs, at 3 p.m. Aug. 2. An exhibition of his work will open that day and continue through Aug. 30. Donations can be made to the Allen Leepa Memorial Fund at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art.

Allen Leepa, founder of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, dies at age 90 06/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 4:53pm]
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