CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: May 25, 2001
UI Museum of Art will show works by Iowan and Grant Wood protege Lee Allen
IOWA CITY, Iowa "Lee Allen," a retrospective exhibition
of more than 50 artworks, including paintings, water colors, medical illustrations
and a bronze relief, will be on display at the University of Iowa Museum of
Art Saturday, June 9, through Sunday, July 29.
Allen, who is retired from the UI department of ophthalmology, made his primary
career in ophthalmic photography, ophthalmic medical illustration, and ocular
prosthetics. However, he began his career in the 1930s working with Grant
Wood on Works Progress Administration (WPA) art projects, and his art retains
a Regionalist style.
The exhibition at the UI Museum of Art will explore Allens achievements
in both art and science. It will include his Regionalist work from the 1930s,
his pioneering achievements in medical illustration, and work from the past
two decades, when he returned to painting following his retirement from the
Born in 1910 in Muscatine, Iowa, Allen had an early interest in art. He received
his first set of oil paints at the age of 11, and after graduation from high
school in Des Moines, Allen attended summer school and one full year at the
Cumming School of Art in Des Moines. He also competed in art competitions
at the Iowa State Fair, winning first prizes in 1928 and 29. In the
fall of 1929 he enrolled at the UI and began attending Grant Woods evening
sketching classes in Cedar Rapids.
During Allens years of study at the UI he continued his relationship
with Grant Wood and traveled to Stone City during summer weekends. In 1933
Grant Wood was appointed director of the Midwest District WPA Art Project
and invited Allen to work with him. Later Allen briefly studied with Diego
Rivera in Mexico, and he received several commissions for murals in the late
In 1937, however, Allen decided that his family responsibilities required
a steady job. He accepted a position as illustrator in the UI department of
ophthalmology. Fearing he would not be successful in two careers, he decided
not to exhibit or sell another painting as long as he was in the department.
Except for painting on vacation, the creation of oil portraits of department
heads and relief portraits of UI medical school professors, Lee confined his
artistic pursuits to medical illustration. He was president of the Association
of Medical Illustrators in 1959 and was a founding member and the first president
of the Ophthalmic Photographers Society in 1969 as well as president
of the American Society of Ocularists the same year.
After his retirement from the ophthalmology department in 1976, Allen joined
David Bulgarelli in private enterprise making prosthetic eyes from a process
Allen had initiated in 1945. He also returned to his original artistic interests
and created many paintings and drawings that show his continued interest in
the regional subject matter unique to the Iowa rural landscape. He produced
many such works before progressive macular degeneration impeded his visual
ability. Even then, however, he turned his scientific training inward and
produced illustrations displaying for the first time the progression of this
devastating disease. His groundbreaking illustrations appear in "The
Hole in My Vision: An Artists View of His Own Macular Degeneration,"
published in 2000.
After its closing at the UI Museum of Art, "Lee Allen" will be
seen at the Brunnier Art Museum of Iowa State University, Aug. 28 through
Nov. 25, 2001.
The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The
Museum will be closed to the public July 30-Aug. 30. Admission is free. Public
metered parking is available in UI parking lots across from the museum on
Riverside Drive and just north of the museum.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the Museum of Art web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/uima/.
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