Doris Emrick Lee was an American painter, muralist and illustrator who was highly successful during the Depression era. Often associated with the American Regionalist movement and the Woodstock Art Colony, Lee’s work tended to capture rural scenes of daily life in an imaginative and nostalgic style, often with a nod to American folk art.
Born in Illinois, Lee studied painting in Europe and in San Francisco, before moving to New York City in the 1930s and setting up her studio in downtown Manhattan on East 14th Street. Lee’s paintings were exhibited in the first Whitney Biennial exhibition in 1932. In 1935, Lee’s painting ‘Thanksgiving’ won the prestigious Logan Prize at the Chicago Art Institute and brought her immediate and controversial attention. While some critics found the painting’s subject provincial, it was hugely popular with the public. Her career continued to grow throughout the Depression years, and under the New Deal, the Treasury Department commissioned her to paint three murals: two for the Washington, DC post office building (now the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building) and one for the Summerville, Georgia Post Office.
In response to the rise of Abstract Expressionism in the decades after World War II, Lee deftly absorbed these innovations and Mid-Century Modern esthetics in her work.