Doris Lee, Unjustly Forgetful, Receives Many Prizes but Explodes

After being sent to boarding school as a teenager in 1920 “to clean up the mess and get ready to go to college,” artist Doris Lee cut her hair in a rebellion against her lifestyle – “unpleasant and imaginative” in her life, with no chance of finding it. in the paint. The revolt was stopped, and the school recommended that “good girls have long hair.”

Based on the many remaining photos of Lee (1905-1983), he never cut his hair again. But he continued to cut himself for the next forty years.

A symbol of frustration and success in the 1940s and 50s, Lee learned at an early age that to keep the game going he had to pretend to play it legally. The experiences on her farm and family parties may bring to mind the Rockwellian ideas or the virtues of Grandmother Moses (sometimes likened to them), but under her Americana there is a feminine culture.

Fearless and self-assured women are popular in many of their professions, and they do not always engage in feminism. We see them fighting horses, shooting arrows, and rejoicing. Vladimir Nabokov also mentioned one of his paintings in “Lolita”. It’s an idea we don’t see anywhere else at the time – not inside Thomas Hart Benton ‘s men in the fields, the people of the small town of Grant Wood self-righteous, or of Reginald Marsh’s silver-screen wannabes.

Lee exhibited with well-known exhibitions, sold work to large museums and painted three paintings. Pictures of WPA Life magazine sent her all over the world as a freelance journalist and made a name for herself at major advertising campaigns. But like many symbolic artists of the time, especially women, Lee went into the dark when Abstract Expressionism took over the taste of the 21st century. Such artists working in the 1930s and 1940s were “not selected by fashion. , ”said art dealer Deedee Wigmore, who has represented Doris Lee since 1991.

But a new memory, “Simple Fun: The Art of Doris Lee,” he travels around the world until 2023, bringing him back to the world through more than 70 examples of his fine art and commercials. Supporting exhibition at D. Wigmore Fine Art in Manhattan, until Jan. 28, showing 40 other works.

“They are in a very interesting mix of human art, American Scene and Modernism,” said Melissa Wolfe of the Saint Louis Art Museum, who oversaw the process here with Barbara Jones of Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Pa., which will be shown until Jan. 9. “But in reality, he was considered too careless to do anything. Her work is symbolic, approachable, and can be decorative and these items looked feminine and are not taken seriously. I know that New York School was not a disrespectful one but a work that was considered masculine – active, big, aggressive, difficult, questionable – and one that was taken seriously. “

Born Doris Emrick in Aledo, Ill., To a businessman and educator, Lee grew up on his grandmother’s “tomboy” farm, skipping piano lessons to paint on his neighbor’s porch. He completed his BA in philosophy in 1927 and married Russell Lee, who became a well-known artist of the Security Security Administration.

Lee studied painting in Paris with Andre L’Hote, a Cubist artist, and in San Francisco with real artist Arnold Blanch. In 1931, Lees followed Blanch and his artist wife, Lucile Lundquist, to the Woodstock Art Group. Lee also took over the studio on 14th Street in Manhattan. Lee left Russell for Blanch in 1939. They lived together but were not married, spending the summer in Woodstock, where they were central figures in the art world cultural culture and demonstrated regularly, with the weather in Florida.

Woodstock was a place of development, and Lee agreed. He joined the American Artists’ Congress, which aimed to counteract the rise of fascism in Europe, and expressed his views on the conflict. In a 1951 article entitled “Women as Artists,” she pointed out how “foolish” it was that young women were taught to find men, and she told the audience, “We cannot afford to ignore or undermine any skills because of technical barriers. by race, class, or sexual orientation. ”

If his work was not extremely political, he would evade the message in it, often confusing all sorts of ideas with playful and humorous jokes. In “Illinois River Town” (1937), one of the several protesters, dubbed “Bruegelian,” is heard on the beach as the mother lifts her vessels to rest. In “The View, Woodstock” (1946), a woman stands in front of a blue house tending her kitchen garden with a fork while a man sneaks around. “Most of the time, it’s the person who informs us about the place,” she said. Wolfe, who suspects Lee is catching Grant Wood ‘words cleverly. “American Gothic” (1930).

Lee was first represented by American Scene artists – a group that grew to prominence during the Depression, when artists such as Wood and Benton left modern Europe to create their own art, painting whatever they think is what made America America – its place, its traditions, its goals , requirements. Lee also brought art, which he and Blanch collected, which the MoMA recognized as American art. And he did not forget his European studies.

Lee’s job was not for everyone. (However he said he had received “many fan letters from people in prisons and shelters, long letters telling everyone.”)a busy multiracial kitchen – won a grand prize of $ 500 Logan Purchase at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1935. If Lee’s iconic portraits depict German dictator George Grosz, his goal – the power of women’s work – remains much more life-giving than the contemporary displays of the thank-you note.

The award winner, Josephine Hancock Logan, publicly called Lee’s work “an evil thing” and founded the Sanity in Art movement to remove “modern evil” by Surrealism and Dada from American art. The Art Institute of Chicago responded by purchasing the work. . Lee, meanwhile, told the Washington Post that “it was not my intention to paint a beautiful picture” and that if some faces look “like,” as Time magazine and others put it, “some people do too.”

That same year, Fortune magazine reported that he “did not really like the final word of his film ‘the’ good hope, ‘” and quoted his words as saying that what he heard was a’ violent race. ‘ Life magazine later referred to her comment as “comedy violence,” but Wolfe thinks differently.

“Many of his early career appear to be an internal genre or a quest for physical freedom,” the supervisor said, referring to works such as “The Runaway”. (1935), which shows a horse rider running away from a farm.

Lee’s kinship experience helped her become an artist during Depression, like Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. As cultural historian John Fagg, who co-authored the “Simple Pleasures” record, said the rebellious heir formed the Whitney Studio Club, where artists like Lee were able to showcase and sell their works. (Lee was included in the first Whitney Biennial, in 1932.)

It soon attracted the attention of art directors and editors, too. Lee’s appearance had become clearer and smoother, with larger gray areas, which made it easier to reproduce. (He also had a keen eye for design – furniture, architecture, plant life, technology, jewelry – which perfectly reflected the illustrations.)

In 1941 he joined the Associated American Artists, a well-known group of entrepreneurs Reeves Lewenthal, who sought to make money by bringing good art to the masses. As the love of shopping and the age of advertising increased, he created his own recordings and employed him in companies such as American Tobacco and General Mills, as well as got him into textile and graphic design and photography, including Rogers & Hart Songbook. “He was very hardworking,” Jones said. “She followed everything. Often she was the only woman who worked with these men, and she was able to support herself. ”

His first work at Life, in 1939, was to commemorate the “Showboat”. It was the first Broadway production team to have a multi-color team, which featured repeaters. Life then sent her to design African American women in South Carolina “as a source of fashion inspiration” in the 1941 issue. – who won third prize at the Carnegie Institute exhibition. He was sent to North Africa, Mexico, Cuba, and Hollywood.

Lee did not distinguish much between his fine and commercial skills. One well-known thread is its constant expression of happy and confident women, whether on the farm or in Hollywood. “She’s not apologizing to her mother for her happiness, which I think shows a great relief,” said Emily Lenz, director and colleague at D. Wigmore.

His work became unpopular and obscure in the 1950s and 60s. Lee and Blanch were very close to Milton Avery and his wife, Sally Michael, and some argue that they were led by them. (Wolfe argues that it was the same.) Lee was spending more time in Florida, and his paintings depict the sunny, coastal landscape.

In 1968 Lee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She died in 1983 in Clearwater, Fla. She had no children, and an article in 1951 discussed stigma. “I remember hearing one woman say, ‘The most amazing thing a woman can do is her family and her house and you will never know what that idea is,’” she relates. His criticism: “And you will never know how to feel like an artist.”

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