About this Piece
Lee moved back to Fort Worth, Texas in 1974. Although this pastel is dated the year after she returned, I suspect from its subject matter, the fact that the signature and part of the date was overdrawn, and the last two numbers in the date were written over in a different medium, that it was begun while she was still living in New York and finished in 1975 after her return.
About the Artist
Marjorie Johnson Lee, 1911-1997
On May 31, 1911, Marjorie E. Lee was born in Upland, Texas, a small town that no longer exists, in Upton County. Her father, a country doctor who worked for Humble Oil constantly moved his family to wherever in West Texas Humble oil workers needed his services.
Marjorie’s parents divorced in 1924 and her grandmother moved the family to Fort Worth. Marjorie graduated Paschal High School in 1925 and that next year, at age 15, started working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. That same year, Marjorie started studying art with Fort Worth artist, Mrs. G.W. Greathouse. In 1934, while still working with the phone company, Marjorie decided to attended Texas Christian University.
After taking classes at TCU for two years, she dropped out when Blanch McVeigh, a respected artist and printmaker who was a principal of the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts along with Evaline Sellors and Wade Jolly, was impressed enough with her artistic talent to invite her to enroll in their school. Under Jolly’s tutelage, she became a skilled landscape watercolorist.
In the late 30’s and early 40’s she exhibited often with other prominent Fort Worth artists like Bror Utter and Veronica Helfensteller. Also, as with many serious artists in the Dallas and Fort area during that time, she traveled to Colorado Springs during her summer vacations to take classes at the Colorado Art Center.
In the latter part of 1942, to do her part, Marjorie joined the WAVES and was sent to Norman Oklahoma for training in radio communication and celestial navigation. In 1943, she was assigned to Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida for the next three years where she taught young airmen these skills and painted and drew whenever she had time off.
After WWII, she moved to New York City to attend the Art Students League in New York City under the GI bill. In 1947, to be sure she could stay in the city, she took a job with New York Telephone and continued to take classes at the League through 48.
She vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard in 1950 and chose to capture her impressions of the island in pastel. She returned in 52, and this time chose watercolor, possibly more suited to the Island atmosphere.
She continued the artistic life in NYC and in 1950, met and married an experimental film maker and educator named Francis Lee. Marjorie’s artwork documents their vacations and trips out of NYC over the next 14 years with works from Minnewaska, New Rochelle, Carmel, East Hampton, and Woodstock in NY, Colorado, Glacier Park in Montana, and New Jersey.
After working for the phone company in NYC for 27 years, she retired in 1974 and moved back to Fort Worth introducing her husband to life in Texas. Although while living in New York, she continued to show in important Texas and regional shows, retirement provided the opportunity to focus on her art. She started exhibiting with the Evelyn Siegel Gallery in Fort Worth and entering competitive shows all over Texas. Nine years after their move, Marjorie and Francis divorced and he moved back to NYC.
Marjorie gave up entering competitive shows in 1984 and had her last one-person show at the Evelyn Siegal Gallery in 1994. She died in a Fort Worth nursing home on February 1, 1997.