The first major critical assessment of the oeuvre of Doris Lee, whose works are compelling in their populist accessibility and in their deceptively sophisticated abstraction
Doris Lee (1904–1983) was one of the top female artists— indeed among the top figurative artists, regardless of gender—in the American art world from the mid-1930s through to the 1950s. Lee exploded on to the national scene in 1935, when her painting Thanksgiving was awarded the Art Institute of Chicago’s Logan prize and instigated the Sanity in Art movement in protest. Two years later, her painting Catastrophe was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Simple Pleasures traces Lee’s interest in the scenes and objects of the everyday throughout her career. A leading figure in the Woodstock Artist’s Colony, she successfully bridged the various artistic “camps” that formed with the shift in the art world after World War II. The rise of abstraction during the late 1940s and 1950s resonated with Lee’s long-held interest in, and collection of, folk and non-western art. Her commercial commissions for patrons such as the American Tobacco Company, and publications like the Rodgers and Hart Songbook, 1951 are highlights of this period.
There will be an accompanying exhibition with the following venues and dates: The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA, September 5–November 29, 2020; Vero Beach Museum of Art, Vero Beach, FL, December 19, 2020–March 14, 2021 (dates tbc); Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN April 25–July 11, 2021; Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IO, September 4– November 28, 2021.
Barbara L. Jones is chief curator, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, PA
Melissa Wolfe is curator of American Art, St. Louis Art Museum, MO
John Fagg is professor of American Studies, University of Birmingham, UK
Tom Wolf is professor of Art History, Bard College, NY
Table of contents
- Simple Joys and Serious Painting by Melissa Wolfe
- Doris Lee’s Senses of Humor and History by John Fagg
- Doris Lee in Woodstock by Tom Wolf
- Into the Commercial Realm by Barbara L. Jones
- The Art of Doris Lee
- Doris Emrick Lee Chronology by Amy Torbert
- Exhibition Checklist
- Selected Bibliography
- Board & Staff