Lee Nye Bio

Lee Nye was born in Hysham, Montana, 1926. He went to a high school in Butte, where his father worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Nye quit high school at 17 to work as cowboy in Dillon, but realized after six months that the cowboy's life was not for him. In 1943, Lee joined the United States Navy and spent his tour of duty in the South Pacific.

1950 November, featured artist in Art Photography Magazine.

1951 -1953 studies at Brooks Photographic Institute in Santa Barbara.

1953 December, Photography International Picture Contest judged by Irving Penn, Arthur, Rothstein, Edward Steichen, and William Eugene Smith. Artist is a double winner in color for Sunday Morning and in black and white for The Bath. The Bath published.

1953 Moves to Los Angeles and is employed as an advertising art photographer.

1954 Lives in New Orleans. Lee tends bar at night and by day, shoots art photos featuring the architecture and daily life of Old New Orleans.

1954 September, Photos of New Orleans are exhibited and placed in permanent collection at the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art.

1955 June, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Photos of New Orleans

1953-67 Staff photographer for assorted community and university theaters in California and Montana.

1957 October, Opens studio in Missoula. Lee’s studio philosophy reflects his values as an artist and photographer not the values of the mainstream photography of the 1950's and 60's.

1957 Dance Magazine publishes his photo of William Christiansen.

1957 Photographs the University of Utah Touring Ballet Corps. Create his first transpoitional the "Lilac Ballarina"

1957 April "Elective Patronage", Photography Magazine (London, England)

1956-61 On-going correspondence with Norman Hall of Photography Magazine and Minor White

1960 Playboy Magazine publishes Lee’s photos of major American literary critic Leslie Fiedler.

1961 Closes studio returns to freelance art photography which include portraits, landscapes and nudes.

1965-1976 Eddie’s Club Collection begins with eight 16x20 portraits of the blue collar workers who frequent a local bar call Eddie’s Club. The Collection grows to 106 pieces. The Collection is a major tourism draw for Missoula and is located at Charlie B’s.

1969-1981 Photography Instructor, University of Montana, Missoula

1971 January, Art News Dialogue Elaine De Kooning describes Lee’s photography ...his fantastic photography - close-up portraits of ranchers and winter landscapes that look like Japanese watercolors ... I’m astonished that these artists can keep going in the face of overpowering neglect - that they retain the art impulse.

1975 The Negative Is The Positive is published by Richard Behan based on the artist’s class lectures.

1974 October, Yellowstone Art Center Eddies Club Collection is exhibited.

1974 December University Montana Art Gallery Nudes Lee’s Students exhibit their renditions of the nude.

1976 BFA in Fine Arts University of Montana: Creative Writing and Art

1977 Faces and Landscapes of Montana exhibited at the University of Montana

1978 August/September Seastar Gallery, Bigfork Montana The White Nudes are exhibited.

1980-1999 Charlie B’s Collection - A collection of two hundred and eight 8x10 portraits of the local patrons of Charlie B’s.

1980 May, “The Nude in Photography” lecture Yellowstone Art Center

1980 American Craft Magazine Lee’s portraits of Rudy Autio and his pots are published.

1981 Willem (Bill) and Elaine De Kooning purchase Lee’s Bird Series.

1987 June, Yellowstone Art Gallery Montana/ Current Ideas

!988 The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology, Existing Light for Lee Nye by Madeline DeFrees

!990 August, Eddie’s Club Collection is exhibited at the University of Montana.

1997 March Limited Retrospective Dana Gallery

1997 March/April Montana Magazine publishes Life and Shadows featuring the Eddie’s Club Series. Article wins the Gold Award for Short Essay Competition of the International and Regional Magazine Association.

1997 August Montana Myths and Realities Center for the Rocky Mountain West and Sutton
Gallery

1999 November 11 - The artist dies.

2000 In noted photographic art book, Children of Belfast, Tom Kumpf writes, Artists such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander and my long term friend and teacher, Lee Nye have had the greatest influence on my life and work.

2001 November, EPOK, Le Magazine de la France, Missoula:fantasia chez les ploucs Lee’s Eddie’s Club Series is recognized as the leitmotif which helps to establish place in various Montana novels.

2002 Show Dana Gallery: January 2002 also permanent Exhibit.

2002 February, The Slaughter Rule directed by Alex and Andrew Smith premieres at the Sundance Film Festival. Eddie’s Club photos used as part of the set design.

2002 May, The Best of the West Auction II, University of Montana, Graphite Nude IV sells for $2000.

2005-06 One of four artists represented in "An Enigmatic Approach" Gregory Gaymont Gallery, Chicago, Illinois.


Lee’s portraits include Leslie Fiedler, Mahalia Jackson, Utah Phillips, Louis Vaczek, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Jim Burke, Rick DeMarinis Jim Crumley, James Welch, Dick Hugo, Ted Waddell, and Rudy Autio and many other artists, writers, and poets who crossed his path. He has done innumerable bookjacket portraits. He has also published in numerous trade journals, the Garrett and the Cutbank literary magazines. His bookjacket portraits have graced the pages of the NewYork Times and Time magazine.

Lee and his images are a recurring theme in the poetry and prose of Montana Writers.