Bird's Point , Alameda

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Joseph LEE 

1827 - 1880

Joseph Lee was born in England in 1827. He came to San Francisco in 1858 and was listed in the city directory as a sign painter. Little is known of his art training; he may have been been self-taught. He first gained public notice in 1858 at the second Mechanics' Institute Fair where he won a bronze medal for tin signs. From the painting of signs, he developed into an easel painter of scenes that were rendered in minute detail. Captains often hired Lee to do portraits of their ships and it is said that you could rig a ship with one of his paintings. His works are seldom without water and often contain repetitious patterns such as railroad tracks, white picket fences, etc. He often signed his paintings on the bows of the ships. His rare works number fewer than 100. Lee died in San Francisco of a lung disease on January 13, 1880. Exhibited: Mechanics' Institute (San Francisco), 1858, 1875-79; San Francisco Art Ass'n, 1870s; California Historical Society, 1968 (solo). Works held: St Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco); Oakland Museum; Maritime Museum (San Franisco); Bancroft Library (University of California, Berkeley); Society of California Pioneers; De Young Museum; California Historical Society; Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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