spacer Lee Simonson Lee Simonson (1888-1967)
Scenic designer

Lee Simonson, a major force in American scenic design, discovered in his youth what the "painters' and designers' vision could do to revivify the theater." After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard in 1909, he went to Paris hoping to become a mural painter. There he formed friendships with such expatriate Americans as writer and collector Gertrude Stein and painter Stanton MacDonald-Wright. He also attended some of the most experimental European theatrical productions, and when he returned to New York in 1912, he was determined to launch his career as a set designer.

In 1912, when he painted this self-portrait, Simonson may have still been in Paris. The canvas, with its areas of pure, vibrant color, reflects his interest in artists such as Paul Gauguin as well as in the work of French contemporary painters known as the Fauves.

Oil on canvas, circa 1912
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Karl and Jody Simonson

Enlarged image

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