Lee Godie is one of Chicago’s best-known self-taught artists. She made a career for herself on the streets of Chicago—living, producing, and selling her work in the city’s outdoor spaces for twenty years. With quirky logic and business savvy, in 1968, she positioned herself on the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago and pronounced herself a French Impressionist (due to her admiration of the beauty and popularity of these nineteenth-century artists in the Art Institute’s collection). With colorful outfits and sales tactics, she captured the attention of passersby to sell her canvases—the interaction was in itself part of her art.
Godie was best known for her paintings, typically of female busts, as in Beautiful Woman. Using her own image as well as those of friends and celebrities, she created archetypal characters. Beautiful Woman stands out as a unique portrait—a subject that is not repeated in Godie’s work. It is possible that it is a portrait of the prominent Chicago collector of modern, contemporary and outsider art, Ruth Horwich herself, as she bought work from Godie in the early 1970s and the painting bears resemblance to Horwich at that time.