The artist Wesley Duke Lee was born on December 21, 1931, in São Paulo. Descendant of North Americans, from his father’s part (William Bowman Lee Jr.) and Portuguese, from his mother’s side (Odilia de Oliveira Lee). Two years later, Wesley’s younger brother, William Bowman Lee Neto, is born.
In 1944, Wesley joined Mackenzie College. He already begins to draw and illustrate posters in college. It is in 1951 that he will start the first formal study of arts, in the Free Drawing Course of the Museum of Art of São Paulo. In 1952, he studied in the United States, more precisely at the Parsons School for Design in New York, until 1955.
From 1956 to 1958, the Italian artist Karl Plattner, at that time in Brazil, will be a great mentor of Wesley. In this period until 1959, Wesley will carry out some advertising campaigns of great renown, for Ford of Brazil, Air France and Renault.
In 1960 he begins to work in the series of the “Ligas”. In the early 1960s he was in contact with many influential figures from the world of the arts and journalists, such as Thomaz Souto Corrêa, Roberto Piva and Frederico Nasser. The latter, along with Luiz Paulo Baravelli, Carlos Fajardo and José Resende were students of the drawing course that Wesley ministered in his atelier on Augusta Street.
In 1963 he founded Magic Realism. In March, he has his first solo show at the Sistine Gallery in Milan, Italy. On October 23, he performed the Great Show of Arts, first happening in Brazil, at João Sebastião Bar, in São Paulo.
In 1965 his international consecration took place, winning the international painting prize of the 8th Tokyo Biennial and being exhibited individually at the Tokyo Gallery, the main gallery of the country.
In 1966, he made “Trapézio ou uma confissão”, an environmental work that deals with the relationship between man and woman, and which will be exhibited in the pavilion of Brazil at the XXXIII Venice Biennial in July. Together with Nelson Leirner, Geraldo de Barros, Frederico Nasser, Carlos Fajardo and José Resende, he founded Rex Gallery, a reaction to the existing art market. In October of the same year he moved to the famous house / studio in the neighborhood of Santo Amaro, home that was from his grandparents Lee.
In 1967, the Rex Gallery closes after one year. He marries Lydia Chamis on November 18. In July he travels to Los Angeles, where he spent about eight months working on the Capsule of Birth project. In December he is invited to exhibit at the inauguration of the Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo, where he sends the work The Helicopter. After the exhibition in Tokyo, the work would be sent to the United States, but it is stuck in Brazilian customs for bureaucratic reasons. It is only released ten years later, damaged.
At the beginning of the 70’s, he invested in portraiture practice and the development of O / Limpo: Anima. In 1977, he realizes the series My Journey to Greece in the Helicopter of Leonardo da Vinci. In 1979 he made the Papers Series in New York.
In 1988, after ten years of construction, he finishes the house in Campos do Jordão. Big and too expensive, he never sleeps on it and then sells it. In 1990 participates of the XLIV Biennial of Venice with the work Fortress of Arkadin. In 1992 begins its retrospective in MASP, curated by Cacilda Teixeira da Costa.
In 1999 he executed the series of paintings O Filiarcado, composed of 29 canvases, mortar and oil pastel. He died on September 12, 2010, at the age of 78.