Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s already the end of November – we have officially entered the holiday season! Later today I’m bringing a caramel apple pear pie (currently in the oven!) to dinner at my in-laws, but earlier this week, I was all about the pumpkin pie, aka the most quintessential Thanksgiving dessert ever!
Doris Lee’s 1935 scene (aptly called Thanksgiving) shows the busy hustle and bustle involved in prepping what seems to be a huge dinner feast. The rustic scene was Lee’s big break as an artist. The work won her the Logan Prize in the annual show at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the work is recognized as one of the most popular nostalgic views of this American ritual. Lee painted in a figurative, folksy manner, and her touching scenes showed the simple joys of American life, which greatly appealed to a country still in the midst of the Depression.
Lee’s treatment of her rural subjects comes directly from her roots in the Midwest; she grew up in Illinois watching the women in her extended family quilt, embroider and decorate their homes with homemade crafts. These cozy scenes show a collective search for national identity, something that characterized art of the 1930s.
While many embraced Lee’s work – she was one of the most successful female artists of the US depression era – her win of the Logan Prize was also quite controversial. The Art Institute of Chicago trustee Josephine Logan, for whom the award was named greatly disapproved of Lee’s exaggerated style and complained that the “trashy” painting didn’t uplift the viewer. Logan was against modern art in general, and felt that this work showed a scene that was too common and ordinary, and therefore unfit to be hung in an art museum.
The busy scene full of housewives working away at dinner prep, with screaming children and pets running around is one of barely controlled chaos, one that is a tiny bit stressful but also warm, comforting and jolly at the same time. Though the ritual of Thanksgiving dinner can be an overwhelming one, it is also the time to enjoy and appreciate your surroundings, and spending time with loved ones.
Here’s to a happy, healthy Thanksgiving! Hope everyone spends it surrounded by loved ones and lots of good food!
Featured art: Doris Lee, Thanksgiving, 1935, oil on canvas
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour