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LEE GODIE (pronounced ‘Go-day’) was born in Chicago in September 1908. As a young woman she was considered quite independent and often somewhat strange. She lived the anonymous life of a street bag lady and only began selling her drawings on the steps of the Chicago Art Institute in 1968.

A self described ‘French Impressionist’, she often offered her works with a toothless claim, stating her canvases were ‘much better that Cezanne’.

Godie painted her face with orange circles on each cheek, eye shadow over her eyes and she added thick black eyebrows over her natural ones. All this was applied from the same paint-box she used to make her pictures. Her dress was equally eccentric; wrapping her body in bolt ends of material fastened with safety pins. Often she wore a felt hat with a brim over her dirty, snarled gray hair.

Her work reflected her early 20th century world of innocence and optimism, and while that world ceased with the Depression, Godie preserved this world in her portraits. Vamps, flappers and femme fatales..glamorous women with lush eyelashes and smoldering gazes populated her art.

In 1989 her daughter located her after a long search and she went to live with her until ill health placed her in a nursing home. The Chicago Cultural Center honoured her with a Twenty-year Retrospective Exhibition in March 1993. Lee Godie was 85 years old and passed away some four months later.

Lee Godie was considered Chicago’s grande dame of outsider art and her works are avidly collected my both private and public collectors. Her works can be found in the Smithsonian Institute and the National Museum of American Art among many others.

Ref: (in part) Michael Bonesteel, Raw Vision issue #27

View Works By Lee Godie

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