Thursday, April 11, 2013

Robert J. Lee: "The career has gone just great."

Recently, Robert J. Lee's daughter, Robin Lee, wrote to me: "Before my dad died in 1994, he dictated a bunch of stories from childhood. I put together a small booklet transcribed from tapes he made of his life. There is at least a snippet that could be interesting."


Most of the text consists of personal anecdotes from throughout his life, but on the last page Lee sums up his thoughts on his career:

"At age 70 I can look back and say at age 30 I was in "Who's Who in American Art." And the biography is very solid. My first painting I ever sold was out of the El Burracho bar in San Francisco. I think I got $35 for it."


"I can recall the lady calling me on the phone and asking if I'd come down in price. I gather that would have been after the war so I would have been 24 or 25. Recently I sold a painting for $15,000 so in 50 years I've come up a little bit in the world."


"The career has been great. Ups and downs. Depression and happiness."


"I guess my favorite stuff about the career is going on assignments, traveling. The most fun travel was for Allstate Insurance and Sears, going to the Southwest with two little girls and Lucy in a big station wagon in 1964."


"And we had all kinds of wondrous adventures."


"The other travels on assignments that I've taken have been mainly for the Air Force. They would send me to different bases and later I would do a painting, take lots of photos and later go to an opening of the exhibition of people who had taken these trips to the Society of Illustrators and the Air Force. The exhibit would be at the Society of Illustrators and later moved down to D.C."


"And then we would go down there for a black-tie dinner. It was great fun seeing, as I get older, people I've known for 35 or 40 years that had been on trips; a lot of guys 70 years old that I know are still working artists."


"I know I still am."


"The length of time that I put in the studio has diminished a lot but I think I am painting fairly well."

* Thanks to Robin Lee for sharing these remarks from her dad, Robert J. Lee, with us. Robin is a freelance nonfiction writer who enjoys telling people's life stories. If you are interested in reaching her, email me and I'll forward your message to Robin. The text of today's post is © 2013 Robin Lee


  1. Robin Lee Michel5:10 PM

    Thanks, Leif, for sharing his story. He was quite the guy and I adored him. One of my earliest memories is lying on his studio floor drawing a picture of Raggedy Ann, which still hangs framed in the family home. My mom will be thrilled that you remembered and memorialized him. Thanks for keeping the legacy of illustration alive!

  2. I really liked your article as it is very interesting to read thank you

  3. I have always loved that style.

    A long and honorable life, a loving daughter. What more could a man want?