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Doris Emrick Lee

 (1905 - 1983)
Doris Emrick Lee was active/lived in New York, Florida, Illinois.  Doris Lee is known for figure, genre and portrait painting, illustration.

Doris Emrick Lee

Biography from the Archives of askART

An American Scene* painter of realistic subjects in a style that combined Realism* and Modernism*, Doris Lee settled in Woodstock, New York, having followed her teacher and husband, Arnold Blanch.  Her subject matter reflects her Midwestern heritage as well as big-city industrial scenes and shows her wide-ranging quest for a national identity, which was typical of many of her peers in the 1930s.

In 1935, she got national attention for her painting, Thanksgiving, which, painted in a carefree naive manner, showed a kitchen scene of bustling, humorous activity.  The work won the Logan Purchase Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago*, but Mrs. Logan, the sponsor of the contest, was so angered by the choice that she launched a campaign calling for sanity in art.  However, the painting proved to be very popular and was reproduced many times as postcards and prints.

Lee was born in Aledo, Illinois, and grew up in a well-ordered domestic environment with women making quilts and pursuing other craft-oriented activities.  She graduated from Rockford College, Illinois in 1927 and then studied at the Kansas City Art Institute* with impressionist Ernest Lawson and in Paris with cubist Andre L'Hote.  Early in her career, she married photographer Russell Lee, a relationship that terminated.  In 1930, she studied in San Francisco with Arnold Blanch, whom she married in 1939, and he was the major influence on her signature style, encouraging her to work from nature and paint real-life subjects.

In 1931, they moved to Woodstock, New York where she was active in the local art association and found inspiration of her paintings of local scenes.  She remained there until her death in 1983, but she also spent much time in Key West Florida

Four years later, she won two mural commissions of a contest sponsored by the United States Post Office department and completed works that were very much a part of the prevalent American Scene painting.  She also completed illustrations for Life magazine, won the Carnegie Prize in 1944, and co-authored a book with her husband titled It's Fun to Paint.

American Women Artists by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from D. Wigmore Fine Art, Inc.
Doris Lee, born in Aledo, Illinois, was one of the most successful artists of the Depression era. Lee studied at the Kansas City Art Institute with the noted American Impressionist Ernest Lawson. She also studied in Paris with the influential cubist painter André Lhote and at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, with Arnold Blanch, whom she later married. In 1931 Lee moved permanently to Woodstock, New York, and established herself as a leader in that important artist colony. The town's close proximity to New York City guaranteed a regular flow of artists between the colony and the metropolis, keeping in touch with current developments in the arts. The Art Students League of New York helped to create that flow when it established a summer school in Woodstock in 1906 that brought hundreds of art students into the town each summer.

The 1930s marked the beginning of a long and productive career for Doris Lee. Her work included easel paintings, murals, prints and illustrations, as well as costume, textile and ceramic design. Lee's work from this period was concerned with life in rural America, and in a stylistic and ideological sense, has much in common with Regionalism. Lee portrayed the simple joys of American life in touching, nostalgic and sometimes fanciful ways. Lee's work was exhibited in the first Whitney Biennial exhibition in 1931. In 1932 the Rhode Island School of Design acquired April Storm. Her earliest major career achievement came in 1935 when she was awarded the Logan Prize for her painting Thanksgiving from the Art Institute of Chicago. The painting, a view of a farm kitchen full of "bustle and bounce and sly humor," was subsequently purchased by the Institute. Shortly after the Logan Prize, Lee was awarded two commissions by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for murals for the Washington, D.C. Post Office Building. An additional boost to the artist's fame and prestige came in 1937 with the purchase of her painting Catastrophe by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From 1938 to 1941, Doris Lee was invited to be a summer guest artist at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. The 1930s finished with a flourish when Lee was invited to exhibit in the 1939 New York World's Fair. This early support given Lee by museums and the art establishment was an impressive accomplishment for a young woman struggling for acceptance in the male-dominated art world of the time.

Starting in the late 1930s, Doris Lee and her husband, Arnold Blanch, began to spend their winters in Key West, Florida. During the winters of the 1940s into the 1960s Lee painted her unique Florida subjects: fishermen, bathers, beaches, mangrove swamps, and Florida's plants and wildlife. Lee combined the sophistication of her knowledge of pure abstraction with her love of American folk art to create her unique style.

In the 1940s Lee's work became more stylized, more concerned with pure form and color. Her simple, flat paintings portrayed gardens, seasonal landscapes, and women and children, as well as birds and beasts. In 1943 and 1944 Lee was guest artist at Michigan State College in Lansing, Michigan. She was awarded the prestigious Carnegie Prize in 1944 and was included in fifteen of the annual juried exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Lee received many painting assignments from Life magazine during these years. She worked in Hollywood, California and Hawaii during the winter months of 1945 and toured Central America in 1946 and North Africa in 1951 for Life Magazine assignments.

Doris Lee's dealers were Associated American Artists Gallery and World House Galleries in New York City, the Maynard Walker Art Gallery (1936-1950), and Rudolf Gallery in Woodstock. She participated in both one-man and group exhibitions with these dealers.

Doris Lee retired from painting in the 1960s. She died in Clearwater, Florida in 1983. In addition to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lee's work can be found in many public collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., Cleveland Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC.

American Artists Congress; An American Group; National Association of Women Artists; Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Gravers; Woodstock Artists Association (president, 1952)

Exhibitions (partial listing)
Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo, New York
American Artists Congress, New York, New York
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Associated American Artists Gallery, New York, New York
Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Walker Galleries, New York, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York
Woodstock Artists Association, Woodstock, New York
Worcester Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts
World House Galleries, New York, New York

Works in Public Collections
Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, New York
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas
Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio
Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, State University of New York, New Paltz, New York
Encyclopaedia Britannica Collection, Chicago, Illinois
Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, Clearwater, Florida
Gibbs Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina
Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, South Carolina
Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Lowe Art Museum, Miami, Florida
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska
University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona
Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York
Woodstock Artists Association, Woodstock, New York

1935 Logan Award, Art Institute of Chicago
1935 Commission awarded for mural in Federal Post Office, Washington, DC
1938 Second Prize, Worcester Art Museum
1943 Third Prize, Carnegie Institute
1943 Library of Congress, Purchase Prize in lithography
1944 Jennie Sesnan Landscape Medal, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
1946 New York Art Director Award of Merit
1947 Library of Congress Lithograph Award
1950 New York Art Director Award of Merit
1964 Berkshire Painting Prize
1966 Art and Science Exhibition First Prize

Biography from Blake Benton Fine Art, Artists L - O
Doris Emrick Lee, painter and illustrator, was born in Aledo, IL, on Feb. 1, 1905.  Lee was the daughter of a merchant-banker, and she was the fourth in a family of six children.  Her parents "regarded her tomboyishness with misgiving."  They did not, however, object to her drawing, and as she recalls that her "grandmother used to whittle and carve in wood.."  Her great-grandfather had retired from farming to paint. 

She was educated at Lake Forest, Illinois, and Rockford College, where she was a student instructor in fine arts, and majored in philosephy.  Upon graduation she married Russell Werner Lee, a chemical engineer from Ottawa, Illinois.  They went to Paris for five months and there she studied with Andre L'Hote.  Returning to America, she continued her art study in Kansas City under Ernest Lawson, a Social Realist and member of "The Eight", a group of painters associated with the Ashcan group.  Lee later studied at the San Francisco School of Fine Art under Arnold Blanch.

An American born scene painter whose "Exuberantly Peopled Canvases of bucolic life are expressed the self-confidence and gaiety of a painter who enjoys life, she had artistic style that bordered on modernism.  

Doris Lee has been included in many books on "modern art.  In 1931, Lee settled in the Woodstock Artist Colony in Woodstock, New York and continued to live there, dividing her time between her studio there and New York's Fourteenth Street.  She enjoyed the company of many of the top artists in the country.  She was an active member/exhibitor at the Woodstock Art Association where her works are part of the permanent collection.  It was in Woodstock where Lee found the inspiration from nature to paint her best works.  Before painting a picture, Doris Lee made many quick pencil sketches which she later used as notes in working out paintings.

She was known for genre, portraits, landscapes, trains, horses, birds and industrial city scenes. During her life many prestigious institutions exhibited her works including the Whitney Museum; Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh; NY and San Francisco World's Fairs; Association of American Artists and others.  These works often reflected her Midwestern heritage.  The naive almost folksy manner in which she painted made her popular among her contemporaries and patrons as well.

She was a member of various art related organizations including, An American Group; American Society of Painters; Sculptors and Gravers and the Woodstock Art Association.

She died in 1983.

Biography from Tobin Reese Fine Art
Doris Lee (1905-1983) was an American painter and printmaker. Her most famous paintings often depicted idyllic scenes of country life, popular with an American audience grasping for an identity bigger than themselves. Her works often blurred the lines between artistic and commercial, making her a popular artist for commercial illustration. However, she also refused to be pigeonholed throughout her career, producing several abstract paintings.

Lee was born in Aledo, Illinois. She studied art at Rockford College, graduating in 1927. She continued her studies with Ernest Lawson at the Kansas City Art Institute for a short period, moving to San Francisco, California to study at the California School of Fine Arts under Arnold Blanch shortly after. She made several trips to Paris, studying under André Lhote.

Lee first gained attention when her painting Thanksgiving Dinner won the prestigious Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago. In response to this award, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased her painting Catastrophe. Shortly after, she was commissioned to paint murals for the United States Treasury Department. She also began painting murals for the Post Office, working in Washington, DC, and Summerville, Georgia. She also created several lithographs for Associated American Artists and worked as an illustrator for Life magazine. She was commissioned by Richard Rodgers to illustrate the Rodgers and Hart Songbook.

In addition to her artistic endeavors, Lee also taught at Michigan State University and the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. After marrying Arnold Blanch, her teacher at the California School of Fine Arts, she moved to Woodstock, New York, making trips to New York City in order to display her art. She died in 1983.

Ian Martyn for Tobin Reese Fine Art

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About  Doris Emrick Lee

Born:  1905 - Aledo, Illinois
Died:   1983 - Woodstock, New York
Known for:  figure, genre and portrait painting, illustration

Essays referring to
Doris Emrick Lee

Women Artists