Doris Lee – Thanksgiving

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Doris Lee

Doris Lee, born in Aledo, Illinois, was one of the most successful female artists of the Depression era. Her earliest major career achievement came in 1935 when she was awarded the Logan Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago for her painting titled Thanksgiving. The painting received overwhelming support from the public and critics alike and was acquired for the Art Institute’s permanent collection. Shortly after receiving the Logan Prize, the Treasury Department awarded Lee the commission to paint murals in the Washington, DC Post Office Building. This was an impressive accomplishment for a young woman struggling for acceptance in the male-dominated art world of the time.
The 1930s marked the beginning of a long and productive career for Lee. Her work included easel paintings, murals, prints, illustrations, and costume, textile, and ceramic design. Lee’s work from this period concerned life in rural America, and in a stylistic and ideological sense, has much in common with Regionalism. She portrayed the simple joys of American life in touching, nostalgic, and sometimes fanciful ways. Her paintings are sophisticated portrayals of color, mood, and design.
Lee retired from painting at the end of 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, DC, 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.


Around 1933, Doris Lee painted a picture titled Thanksgiving. It was exhibited that year at the Art Institute of Chicago, winning the institution’s annual Logan Medal. The painting was not approved by the Museum’s trustee Josephine Hancock Logan. She referred to it as “atrocious” and “trash”. She explained that “after a visit to a museum one should have a glow, should be uplifted”. Logan sought to discourage what she believed were the more radical practitioners of modern art and agitated to rid museums of these “aberrations” by forming an organization called Sanity in Art.
The painting was considered as something that should not really find itself in a museum not exactly because of what it depicted, as much as how it depicted it. It showed the American holiday of Thanksgiving as something incredibly common and ordinary. Its setting – a dull, uninteresting kitchen, complete with plain, old furniture, screaming children and busy housewives, who are putting all of their effort into trying to contain the chaos. However, what most people fail to see is that all of these things that make the painting seem boring, are what actually make it unique in its own right. It gives us the opportunity to see and feel the holiday the way the way it was meant to be observed through the senses of the painter.
One cannot clearly make out the facial expressions of the women and children in the painting, but nonetheless it is rather easy to determine the emotions, which envelop it, thanks to lighting and warm colour scheme. Should one combine the colours with the images of business and jolly working, one will instantly get a cosy, homey feeling from the painting, a feeling of comfort and warmth.

• To Roast a Pair of Ducks

After the ducks are drawn, wipe out the inside with a clean cloth, and prepare your stuffing. Mince very fine some green sage leaves, and twice their quantity of onion, (which should first be parboiled), and add a little butter, and a seasoning of paper and salt. Mix the whole very well, and fill the crops and bodies of the ducks with it, leaving a little space for the stuffing to swell. Reserve the livers, gizzards, and hearts to put in the gravy. Tie the bodies of the ducks firmly round with strings (which should be wetted or buttered to keep them from burning), and put them on the spit before a clear brisk fire. Baste them first with a little salt and water, and then with their own gravy, grudging them lightly with flour at the last. They will be done in about an hour. After boiling the livers, gizzards, and hearts, chop them, and put them in the gravy, having first skimmed it, and thickened it with a little browned flour.
Send to table with ducks a small tureen of onion-sauce with chopped sage leaves in it. Accompany them also with stewed cranberries and green peas.
Canvas-back duck are roasted in the same manner, omitting the stuffing. They will generally be done enough in three quarters of an hour. Send currant jelly to table with them, and have hearts to place under the plates. Add to the gravy a little cayenne, and a large wine-glass of claret or port.
Other wild ducks and teal may be roasted in about half an hour. Before cooking, Soak them all night in salt and water, to draw out whatever fishy or sedgy taste they may happen to have, and which may otherwise render them uneatable. Then early in the morning put them in fresh water (without salt), changing it several times before you spit them.

• To Boil a Turkey with Oyster Sauce
Grate a loaf of bread, chop a score or more of oysters fine, add nutmeg, pepper and salt to your taste, mix it up into a light forcemeat with a quarter of a Pound of butter, a spoonful or two of cream, and three eggs; stuff the craw with it, and make the rest into balls and boil them; sew up the turkey, dredge it well with flour, put it in a kettle of cold water, cover it, and set it over the fire; as the scum begins to rise, take it off, let it boil very slowly for half an hour, then take off your kettle and keep it closely covered; if it be of a middle size, let it stand in the hot water half an hour, the steam being kept in, will stew it enough, make it rise, keep the skin whole, tender, and very white; when you dish it, pour on a little oyster sauce, lay the balls round, and serve it up with the rest of the sauce in a boat.
N.B. Set on the turkey in time, that it may stew as above; it is the best way to boil one to perfection. Put it over the fire to heat, just before you dish it up.

• To Make Sauce for a Turkey
As you open the oysters, put a pint into a bowl, wash them out of their own liquor, and put them in another bowl; when the liquor has settled, pour it off into a saucepan with a little white gravy, and a tea-spoonful of lemon pickle-thicken it with flour and a good lump of butter; boil it three or four minutes, put in a spoonful of good cream. Add the oysters; keep shaking them over the fire tilt they are quite hot, but don’t let them boil, for it will make them hard and appear small.

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