Doris Lee, Unjustly Forgotten, Gets a Belated but Full Blown Tribute

by AryanArtnews
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In 1920, when he was a teenager, he was sent to a boarding school, where artist Dorisley cut his hair and rebelled against the surroundings, “to polish his edges and prepare for college.” This was the “most adventurous and unimaginative” thing in life and was inaccessible. In the picture. This act of rebellion encountered rustication and a school warning that “a lovely girl has long hair.”

Judging by the many photographs left in Lee (1905-1983), she never cut her hair again. But she continued to pave the way for the next 40 years.

Lee was a figurative painter and a highly successful commercial artist from the 1940s and 1950s during the Great Depression, and at least pretended to play according to the rules to stay in the game. I learned when I was young. Her farm scenes and family gatherings may evoke Rockwell’s emotions and the health of Grandma Moses (she is sometimes compared), but there’s boiling feminism beneath the surface of her Americana. ..

Fearless and confident women appear in most of her work, and they are not limited to typical female activities. You can see them langling their horses, shooting arrows and feeling joy. Vladimir Nabokov even mentioned one of her paintings in “Lolita”. Thomas Hart Benton’s outdoor subordinates, Grant Wood’s self-righteous little townspeople, Reginald Marsh’s silver screen aspirants, and more, are perspectives not found anywhere else at the time.

Lee exhibited in prestigious galleries, sold his work to major museums, painted three murals for WPA Life magazine, sent them worldwide as artist correspondents, and produced award-winning art in major advertising campaigns. did. But, like many figurative painters of the time, especially women, when Abstract Expressionism took over the hobbies of the 20th century, Lee fell into relative ambiguity. Such artists, who were active in the 1930s and 1940s, were simply “left behind by fashion,” said Dee Dee Wigmore, an art dealer who has represented Dorisley’s real estate since 1991.

However, a major new retrospective, “Simple Pleasures: The Art of Doris Lee,” traveling nationwide until 2023, reintroduces her to the public through more than 70 examples of her outstanding commercial work. An additional 40 works will be unveiled at the companion show at D. Wigmore Fine Art in Manhattan until January 28th.

“She’s connected to this really interesting folk art, American scene, and modernism,” says Barbara Jones of the Westmoreland American Art Museum in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and Melissa Wolf of the St. Louis Art Museum, curating her current retrospective. Said. “But basically, she wasn’t considered too serious to take seriously. Her work could be figurative, accessible, and decorative, and these things Perceived as feminized and not taken seriously. The New York School was not a monolith, but a job that was perceived as masculine: active, big, aggressive, problematic. I know I’m full of doubts, and that’s what I take seriously. “

Born to a banker’s father and a school teacher’s mother in Aledo, Illinois, Lee grew up on his grandparents’ farm as a self-proclaimed “Otenba Musume,” skipping piano lessons and painting on his neighbor’s porch. I drew. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1927 and married Russell Lee. Russell Lee has become a highly regarded photographer in the Farm Security Administration.

Lee studied painting with the cubist painter André Lhote in Paris and with the realist painter Arnold Blanch in San Francisco. In 1931, Lee followed Brunch and his artist’s wife, Lucille Lundquist, to the woodstock artist colony. Lee also used a studio on 14th Avenue in Manhattan. Lee left Russell in 1939 for a brunch. They lived together but never got married, spending the summer in Woodstock, a central figure in the social scene of the art world and regularly exhibited, and in the winter in Florida.

Woodstock was a progressive place and Lee was perfect. She attended the American Artists Conference, which aimed to combat the rise of European fascism, and expressed her views on inequality. In a 1951 lecture entitled “Women as Artists,” she pointed out how “stupid” it was that young women were taught to find a husband, and told the audience: rice field. Race, class, or gender. “

When her work was clearly not political, she often sneaked some messages into it, spreading explicit cultural criticism with a playful, humane sense of humor. In “Illinois Rivertown” (1937), one of several work critics called “Blue Jerien” bustles around the beach as a woman lifts a drawer to free herself. In The View, Woodstock (1946), a woman stands in front of a blue house grooming a vegetable garden while a man is nearby and lazy. “Usually it’s the guy who introduces us to real estate,” said Wolf, who suspects Lee might be wisely quoting Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” (1930). rice field.

Lee first stood up with the painters of the American scene. In a movement that flourished during the Great Depression, artists like Wood and Benton recorded what they imagined to abandon European modernism and develop their own forms of art, making America an American. Ideal, desire. Lee also brought in folk crafts that she and Brunch had collected and that MoMA had clearly recognized as an American form of art. And she never forgot about European education.

Lee’s work wasn’t for everyone. (But she reported that she received a lot of fan emails from prisons and asylum seekers. A long letter tells everything. “ — — Busy Kitchen Scene for Multigenerational Females — Winner of the prestigious $ 500 Logan Purchase Award at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1935. When Lee’s cartoon-like figure channels German Dada artist George Grosz, her focus, the intensity of female labor, is more life than the more typical portrayal of the pastoral Thanksgiving table era. ..

Award donor Josephine Hancock Logan publicly called Lee’s work “terrible,” and then Sanity to wipe out Surrealism and Dada’s “modern grotesque” from American art. Established the inArt movement. The Art Institute of Chicago responded by purchasing the work. .. Meanwhile, Lee told The Washington Post that “drawing a beautiful picture wasn’t my purpose,” and as Time magazine and others suggested, if part of the face “looks like a cartoon,” then ” Some people do that too. “

That same year, Fortune magazine said, “She especially hates that the last word in her painting is” optimism, “” and said that what she actually felt was “a kind of violence.” I am saying. Life magazine later interpreted her comment as a “comic sense of violence,” but Wolff thinks it isn’t.

“Many of her early works seem to be about this kind of inner agitation and desire for physical freedom,” the curator said, referring to works like “runaway.” (1935), which shows a woman riding a horse rushing away from the farm.

Lee’s relative privileges helped her survive as an artist during the Great Depression, as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney did. As cultural historian John Fag, who contributed to the Simple Pleasures catalog, pointed out, the rebel heirs created the Whitney Studio Club, where artists like Lee could display and sell their work (Lee). Included in the first Whitney Biennial in 1932). .. )

Soon she caught the attention of art directors and editors. Lee’s style is sharper and flatter, making it easier to reproduce large areas of juicy contours of color. (She also looked at design details such as furniture, architecture, plant life, technology, and jewelry, which fit well with the illustrations.)

In 1941, she joined Associated American Artists, a lively gallery of entrepreneur Reeves Lewenthal, whose purpose is to make money by bringing art to the masses. As consumerism and the advertising era exploded, he made her prints, got jobs at companies such as American Tobacco and General Mills, and got books on cloth and ceramic designs and illustrations such as Rogers & Hart Songbook. “She is very tenacious,” Jones said. “She chased everything. She was often the only female working with these groups of men and she was really able to hold herself.”

Her first mission to life was to commemorate the musical “Showboat” in 1939. It was the first Broadway production by a racially integrated cast in which she portrayed a rehearsal. Life then asked her to portray a South Carolina African-American woman “as a source of fashion inspiration” for the 1941 issue. She later remade one of the nine fashion plates into “Siesta” (1944). This is a vaguely erotic painting of a Dio Nussian black woman who won third place at the Carnegie Institute show. After that, missions were carried out in North Africa, Mexico, Cuba and Hollywood.

Lee didn’t make much of a distinction between her fine arts and commercial arts. One of the common threads is her relentless portrayal of a woman being happy and confident, whether on a farm or in Hollywood. Emily Wigmore, director and partner of D. Wigmore, said:

Her work was more streamlined and abstracted in the 1950s and 1960s. Lee and Brunch are intimate with Milton Avery and his wife Sally Michael, and some claim she was under their influence. (Wolf claims it was reciprocal.) Lee spent more time in Florida, and her paintings reflect a sunny, voyage environment.

Lee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1968. She died in 1983 in Clearwater, Florida. She had no children. In a 1951 lecture, we talked about how it offended people. “I remember hearing a woman say,’The best things a woman can make are her family and home, and you’ll never know that feeling,'” she said. I did. Her counter-argument: “And you never know the feeling of being an artist.”

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