Your Memories of Lee Godie


This internet sharing is great for those interested in learning more about Lee Godie. Although Lee was very visible to the public, she was a private person. Because many people who knew her have moved away from Chicago, it is a perfect forum for us to document these important stories of her life. Thank you for sharing your memories of Lee Godie.

Thanks to Craig Burt, Raleigh, NC

My wife and and were graduates of the Art Institute of Chicago I attended from 1978 through 1982, my wife, Marianne was there till 1983.
We got to know Lee and had the good fortune of being liked by her and purchased some of her art from her. This Christmas, probably 1979 I was out shooting street scenes and ran into Lee. She posed for me and have kept the shot as a favorite one.

Craig Burt
Revelation Imaging

Thanks to Randy Shear Dallas Texas

I knew of Lee while working at an architects office in Chicago around 1985-1995. She was a was just part of the Michigan avenue landscape usually hanging out on the Water Tower steps. She was quite moody sometimes so you never really knew if she would talk to you or not and she usually hated questions. But one morning on my way to work I spoke to her, asking if she had anything to sell. She showed me a pen sketch of a blue bird. I told her that I was going to get money and she held it for me - personalizing the back which read 'to randy' while I was off getting some cash. It was a simple exchange money for the ink sketch, but I love it, and it reminds me of Chicago only because the blue bird was speaking 'Chicago we love'

Randy Shear Dallas Texas

Thanks to Ronald D. Fetman, Sacramento, California

I now live and work in Sacramento, CA, but for three years I worked in City Hall for the Chicago Department of Water. After Midnight each day when my shift was done I would walk home to my apartment. As I passed by the area around 666 North Michigan Avenue, I would see Lee Godie asleep for the night in the courtyard on a concrete bench between the two huge skyscrapers, clutching her large black portfolio case. It was, more often than not, freezing, sub-zero weather. Needless to say, Lee was a tough woman.

I only own one of her paintings, but I was honored at being allowed the privilege of buying it for only $20.00 because she told me it was damaged (I couldn't find the damage). It remains my favorite art possession.


Ronald D. Fetman

Thanks to Joe Lamb, Little Rock, Arkansas for the next four memories

In 1970 or 1971 my family moved from Aurora, Illinois to Flippin, Arkansas. We had a big garage sale before we moved and my sister and I took the train to Chicago to spend the money we made. We went to the Art Institute and after I entered the lobby through the revolving doors I was startled to see a woman with her face pressed to the glass with a finger beckoning me to come outside. That was the first time I ever saw Lee. She stopped us on the way out and tried to get us to buy some of her "etchings" of mushrooms. I think they were drawings. I didn't see her again until several years later when I became a student at the Art Institute.

1. Oh, I have plenty of Lee Godie stories. I was a student at the School of the Art Institute in the late 70's and worked in the Ryerson Library from 1977-79. I probably bought about 20 paintings from her but she would never sell me the REALLY good ones. The only one I still own is the first one I bought. When I moved to Arkansas a box containing her paintings came open in the mail and the box was repackaged in Memphis sans my Godie collection. At the time of my first purchase I really didn't like her work but I bought it for my roommate who was a big fan but who was visiting his parents in New York state. Over the summer the painting grew on me and I decided to keep it.

I used to work as the "guard" at the Ryerson library and was usually seated at the front desk where I asked patrons for their id's and to sign in. One afternoon Lee came in (she must have needed some cash) and wanted to do my portrait for $5.00. I said I couldn't sit for her as I had already had my break. She said she would just do a rough sketch and would take it home and fill in the details later. We went outside in front of the Art Institute and Lee seated me on the balustrade. She reached into her portfolio and unrolled a long painting of a piano keyboard with two hands playing. I asked her what that was for.

"Inspiration," she replied. She asked me to take my glasses off because she had a hard time drawing them. When I removed them she grabbed hold of my cheeks in her hands and rubbed my face vigorously.

"What are you doing," I asked.

"You need a little color in your cheeks," she replied. She started to sketch a profile. I had a dimple on one side and Lee was gaga about dimples. She told me once that if I would take my fingers and press and rotate them against my cheeks it would enhance my dimples!

The next day when she brought me the portrait I was stunned. It was a wonderfully sleazeball profile with "Joe Lamb by Lee Godie" scripted in the right hand corner. Alas it was one of the paintings that was lost in the mail in Memphis but there should be NO doubt about who the true owner is!

2. One day Lee showed me another of her exceptional paintings. It was a frontal woman's portrait with very vivid, almost primitive, coloring and unusually, was done with lots of pigment. The colors were bright orange, purple, and rosy red and the face itself was highly colored to the extent that the woman almost looked tattooed. I had never seen another Godie quite like it. As usual, Lee was aware of its quality and had probably decided to keep it or sell it "up north" where she could get "the big money". We wrangled a while and she finally said she would sell it to me for $50.00 but that I had to wait until the next day for delivery. The next day she came to the library and delivered a washed out copy with very little pigment. I balked and declined to buy the copy. Lee stormed out of the library only to return about five minutes later. "Well I'd just like to know, do you or don't you want this painting?" I had made it perfectly clear that I didn't want the copy. I was so ticked off that I decided not to buy anything from her again and we didn't speak for a couple of months.

At some point I began to think about the Godie's that I was missing and decided to apologize. One day I spied her just outside the Art Institute cloak room bent over one of the wooden benches and fumbling with her portfolio. I pecked her on the shoulder causing her to start violently and turn around. I didn't realize she was eating and her mouth was comically stuffed with peanut butter and crackers. "Oh, I'm sorry", I said. "I didn't know you were eating." I started to walk away but she grabbed my wrist with a grip like a vice. She swallowed, smiled and with a honey coated voice like a belle in an old melodrama cooed "I'm so sorry we quarreled!" This was several years before I tried to acquire the Joan Crawford portrait. Some people never learn!

It's really fun to read about Lee from other people who knew her. It's really funny how many of the things I remember are mentioned by others: platinum blonds, peanut butter, Joan Crawford portraits, cameos and brooches attached to paintings, etc. etc. One of the things I don't agree with is about Lee never wearing pants. She may have thought they were unladylike, but I have a definite memory of her wearing loose pants. Of course, she wore them with style.

3. One day I was walking south past the Art Institute on Michigan Ave. I happened to look east down the street toward the lake and saw Lee standing over the viaduct south of the Art Institute. She was wearing loose pants and a large brimmed straw hat. From where I stood and with her stylish stance she could have been Greta Garbo. I walked over and started to talk to her. She had a loose stack of paintings she was trying to sell that she had temporarily placed on the balustrade over the train tracks. A slight breeze started to blow the paintings away and I slapped my hand down on top of the pile. Lee giggled. "Oh, how gallant!", she cooed. She pronounced it ga-LAHNT. Somehow Lee could turn any incident into something from a Romance novel. A few minutes later she introduced me to a young woman friend of hers who was walking past. They chatted for a few minutes and as the young woman started to walk away Lee grabbed her sleeve and with great pity advised her, "By the way, get a new dress!"


4. When I told Lee I was moving she asked me to write to her in care of the Museum store, which I guess she considered her office. I told her I would probably see her again in a year or two but she shook her head and said, "You won't be back" Sadly, she was right.  Photo of Lee Godie with Three Silver Goblets courtesy of Joe Lamb  

Please E-Mail your stories and comments to the Webperson to share with everyone. It would be helpful if you can remember the approximate date of Lee Godie stories - attach your photo of her if you have one.

Lee Godie Memorial Gallery

Lee Godie Art Courtyard



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