1881 (Trondheim, Norway)
1961 (Newtown, Connecticut)
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sculptor-classical nude figure
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Categories of Interest
New York Armory Show of 1913
Painters of Nudes
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following is courtesy of Timothy Stotz:|
Arthur Lee (b Trondheim, Norway 1881; d Newtown, Connecticut 1961)
Immigrating to Minnesota with his family in 1888, Lee spent his childhood
participating actively in outdoor sports, and it was during this time that he first became fascinated with the human body. In 1902 he entered the Art Students League, studying with Kenyon Cox, a staunch proponent of the classical tradition, and briefly with illustrator Walter Appleton Clark. Lee traveled to Paris in 1905 to continue his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts for the next five years under Antonin Mercié, among others.
He attended school until 1910, and also visited museums in London, Paris,and Italy, examining ancient Greek sculpture in particular. However, he credited his association with the Parisian modernists for providing the most fruitful stimulation.
Lee was a friend of Constantin Brancusi (who was also a student of Antonin Mercié), Pablo Picasso, Morgan Russell, and Max Weber. Lee frequented the salon of Gertrude Stein, where he immersed himself in discussions on aesthetics. He would return to Paris in 1914 for three more years. During all his studies abroad, Lee received a monthly stipend from Gertrude Whitney.
In the infamous New York Armory Show of 1913, Lee exhibited four figurative
sculptures, all nudes. One, titled "Ethiopian" ( 1912) was probably a portrait
of Jack Johnson, the first African American to win the world heavyweight boxing championship. Despite the contemporaneity of this theme, Lee became best known for nudes based on subjects from classical antiquity.
By the 1920s, Lee had settled in New York City in a studio on Macdougal Alley, near his patron's (Whitney's) studio. Wildenstein accorded him a solo exhibition in 1921, which was well-received. Although considered one of the rising young modernists at the Armory show, Lee's allegiance to classical themes and to the belief in ideal beauty only intensified over the next decades, and his work contributed to a revitalization of classicism in American sculpture during the 1910s and 1920s. Lee retained a serious concern for form and volume, always suggesting the softness of living flesh in his modelling. He occasionally exhibited in the 1930s, and at least one
sculpture suggests affinities with the figurative art of Richmond Barthè, who was just beginning to be known.
Lee is presently better remembered as a teacher than a sculptor. He was an
instructor at the Art Students League (1930-32, 1938-43) where he taught life and portrait modeling. In 1938, he opened his own drawing school in New York City, which attracted talented students through the 1940s.
"Arthur Lee: American Sculptor in the Classical Tradition." Vanity Fair 25 ( Sept 1925) p 58.
"Picasso, Matisse, Brancusi and Arthur Lee." Vanity Fair 24 ( June 1925) p 56, 86. Interview with Arthur Lee
The Figure in American Sculpture, p 210, 1994
The following is from an interview with Ted Seth Jacobs, Painter.
"Arthur Lee has work in the Metropolitan Museum. He possessed a sublime sense of form... his style was so refined. I do believe he studied later in life than is considered ideal, in his 20s or even 30s ( circa 1906-1916). He taught drawing privately, and his students would refine only a contour, on a largish sheet of paper, over a month long pose. (The contour view is so important for a sculptor). He was my friend: we used to hang out together informally, and I knew several of his students. I would call him an influence on me, definitely. He had his heart broken by Kiki of Montparnasse, a famous model (Man Ray's muse), and I think he never recovered. He was a shattered man, in that sense."
Note from Jim Lovelace, August 2003.
I'm the grandson of Tony Sansone, who posed for Arthur Lee for many of hisstatues including one titled "Rhythm", which was displayed at the Whitney in 1930. I've been in touch with theWhitney and they still have it in their inventory.
Note from John Massey, August 2003.
I am the individual who did the research on Mr. Lee's sculpture "Rhythm" and I am the one who shared this information with Mr. Lovelace. That is how he learned of his grandfather's modeling for Mr. Lee's sculpture. However, it appears that Mr. Sansone only modeled for one sculpture, not several, by Lee, and that sculpture was titled "Rhythm."
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