About This Artwork

Doris Lee
American, 1905–1983

Thanksgiving, c. 1935

Oil on canvas
71.3 x 101.8 cm (28 1/8 x 40 1/8 in.)
Signed lower right: Doris Lee

Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize Fund, 1935.313

Doris Lee’s bustling scene of women preparing a Thanksgiving feast became the object of national headlines when it was first exhibited at the Art Institute in 1935 and won the prestigious Logan Purchase Prize. The themes of Thanksgiving, rural customs, and family life, which Lee painted in a deliberately folksy manner, would have had great appeal to a country still in the midst of the Depression. Yet Josephine Logan, the donor of the prize, condemned the work’s broad, exaggerated style, founding the conservative “Sanity in Art” movement in response. This controversy only brought Lee fame, and Thanksgiving has been recognized as one of the most popular nostalgic views of this American ritual since that time.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fourteenth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Oil Paintings, March 24–May 5, 1935, cat. 220.

Art Institute of Chicago, Forty-Sixth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, October 24–December 8, 1935, cat. 123.

Art Institute of Chicago, Half a Century of American Art, November 16–January 7, 1940, p. 30, cat. 101.

Montclair, New Jersey, Montclair Art Museum, America Yesterday and Today, January 2–26, 1941, cat. 35.

Worcester, Mass., Worcester Art Museum, A Decade of American Painting: 1930–1940, February 18–March 22, 1942, p. 18.

Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, L’Exposition d’art Américain contemporain, March 20–April 10, 1948, cat. 60.

Coral Gables, Fla., Miami University Art Gallery, September 29-November 15, 1950, no. cat.

Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Famous Paintings and Famous Painters, October 4-November 2, 1958, foreword (n.p), cat. 21.

Denver Art Museum, The American Panorama, March 17–May 27, 1968. (no checklist)

Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State University Art Gallery, America, ca. 1930, October 12-31, 1968. (no cat found)

Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar College Art Gallery, Seven American Women: The Depression Decade, January 19–March 5, 1976, cat. 52.

Wichita Art Museum, The Neglected Generation of American Realist Painters: 1930–1948, May 3–June 14, 1981, fig. 27.

Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, American Realism Between the Wars: 1919–1941, April 10–June 5, 1994, pp. 18–21, 61, fig. 21.

Art Institute of Chicago, Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine, November 10, 2013-January 27, 2014; traveled to Fort Worth, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, February 22-May 18, 2014, cat. 32.

Art Institute of Chicago, "America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s," June 5-September 18, 2016; travels to Paris, Musee de l'Orangerie, October 15, 2016-January 30, 2017; London, Royal Academy, February 25-June 4, 2017, cat. 30.

Publication History

C.J. Bulliet, “Around the Galleries,” Chicago Daily News, October 26, 1935.

"'If This Is American Art, Let's Scrap It,' Says Critic of Chicago Show," Art Digest 10, 3 (Nov. 1, 1935), p. 5, ill.

Virginia Gardner, “Calls Prize Canvas Atrocious,” Chicago Tribune, November 6, 1935.

"Awards Shock Art Patrons: Mrs. Logan Terms Pictures 'Vulgar' and 'Indecent,'" Herald-Examiner, November 8, 1935.

“Controversy Continues over Merits of American Art Exhibition,” Chicago Tribune, November 8, 1935, p. 5, ill.

“Art Show Gives “Jitters” to Mrs. Logan,” Chicago American, November 9, 1935.

“Doris Emrick Lee Picture Shown at Chicago,” Carthage, Illinois Republican, November 13, 1935.

Gifford Ernest, “New Art Institute Show Reveals Depression Used for Ideas in Paintings,” Chicago Daily News, November 15, 1935, p. 40.

“Doris Lee’s ‘Americana’ Shown in New York,” Art Digest 10, 12 (March 15, 1936), p. 20.

“Doris Lee One-Woman’s It At The Walker Gallery,” American Magazine of Art 29 (May 1936), p. 334.

“Doris Lee: An American Painter with a Humorous Sense of Violence,” Life (September 20, 1937), p. 44.

Josephine Hancock Logan, Sanity in Art (Chicago: A. Kroch, 1937), p. 92 (ill.).

“Chicago Surveys Half Century of Native Art,” Art Digest, 14, 4 (November 1939), pp. 9, 34.

“Worcester Surveys a Decade of American Painting, 1930–1940,” Art Digest, 16, 11 (March 1942), p. 5 (ill.).

“A Decade of American Painting, 1930-1940,” Worcester Art Museum News Bulletin and Calendar 7, 6 (March 1942), p.1 (ill.).

Alfred M. Frankfurter, “Only Yesterday in American Painting: Worcester Shows 50 Pictures of the Turbulent 30s,” Art News, 41, 2 (March 1942), p. 10 (ill.).

Doris Lee, Doris Lee (American Artists Group, 1946), pp. 6, 7 (ill.).

Charles Fabens Kelley, “Chicago: Record Years,” Art News, 51, 4 (June–August 1952), p. 69 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, Masterpieces in the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 1952), n. pag. (ill.).

Kenneth Shopen, “Painting that Raised a Storm now Symbol of Thanksgiving,” Chicago Daily News, November 23, 1953.

Mary Anne Guitar, “Close-up of the Artist…Doris Lee,” Famous Artists Magazine (Winter 1959), p. 23 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), p. 257.

“Beeline,” Chicago Daily News, November 27, 1974.

Matthew Baigell, The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930s (New York: Praeger, 1974), p. 59, pl. 11.

Charlotte Moser, “’In the Highest Efficiency’: Art Training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,” in The Old Guard and the Avant-Garde: Modernism in Chicago, 1910–1940, ed. Sue Ann Prince (University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 207–208.

Deedee Wigmore, Doris Lee: Images of Delight 1930-1950 (D. Wigmore Fine Art, Inc., 1996), p. 3.

Todd D. Smith, “Painting for the Middlebrow: Doris Lee and the Making of a Popular Artist,” in American Art from the Dicke Collection, exh. cat. by Todd D. Smith et al. (The Dayton Art Institute, 1997), pp. 33 (ill.), 34, 39-42.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 81.

Ownership History

The artist; purchased by the Art Institute, 1935.

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