MsC 803

Collection Dates: 1988 -- 1997
(Bulk Dates: 1995 -- 1997)
0.25 linear ft.

Collection Guide

This document describes a Manuscript Collection held by the

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
e-mail: lib-spec@uiowa.edu

Guide Contents

Administrative Information

Biographical and Historical Information

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Related Materials

Acquisition and Processing Information

Box Contents List

Administrative Information

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

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Use of Collections:  The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.

Biographical Note

Edwin Lee Allen was born in 1910 in Muscatine, Iowa. After graduating from East High School in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1928, Mr. Allen enrolled at the Cumming School of Art in Des Moines. (Cumming had founded the art departments at Cornell College in 1880 and at the University of Iowa in 1909). In the fall of 1929 Mr. Allen enrolled at the University of Iowa where he studied art.


In 1933, he was invited by renowned artist Grant Wood to work with him on a series of public art projects funded by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). Wood also introduced him to Diego Rivera, with whom he studied in Mexico in 1935. It was there that Mr. Allen learned how to use the fresco medium for murals for public buildings.


Numerous mural projects and exhibitions followed, including the American Show at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1936, where his painting Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox received critical praise. In 1937, Mr. Allen accepted the position of medical illustrator at the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology, where he remained until his retirement in 1976. During this time, he generally confined his artistic pursuits to medical illustration. He did, however, continue to paint creatively during vacations and prepared oil and relief portraits of numerous members of the College of Medicine faculty. He was president of the Association of Medical Illustrators in 1959, and was a founding member and the first president of the Ophthalmic Photographer’s Society in 1969 as well as being president of the American Society of Ocularists that year. He was also the author of numerous articles and publications pertaining to ophthalmologic illustration.


Following his retirement, Mr. Allen joined David Bulgarelli in private enterprise making prosthetic eyes from a process Mr. Allen had initiated in 1945 for the Department of Ophthalmology. He also resumed his work in paintings, drawings and sketches.  Further information about Edwin Lee Allen is described below under “Related Materials.”


The preceding biographical note is based in part on exhibit notes prepared by Pamela Trimpe, University of Iowa Museum of Art Curator of Painting and Sculpture. The notes were prepared in 2000 for exhibits by Mr. Allen at the University of Iowa Museum of Art and at the Brunnier Art Museum, Iowa State University.

Scope and Contents

The Lee Allen Collection of Card Paintings consists of one document box containing 54 paintings on individual cards each measuring, on average, five by seven inches. The collection also includes 48 photographic prints of many of the paintings. The paintings chronicle Mr. Allen’s personal experience with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), symptoms of which he first noticed at age 78. They were used in part to illustrate his book, The Hole in My Vision: An Artist’s View of His Own Macular Degeneration (Iowa City, IA: Penfield Press, 2000).

 The collection is arranged in two series: paintings and photographic prints. Each series is arranged first by depiction of left eye (“O.S.”) and right eye (“O.D.”) activity. Within the O.S. and O.D. groupings the images are arranged chronologically. Notes by the artist are on the back of each image and generally include information about date, time, and references to pre- and post-treatment, such as laser therapy. The notes are transcribed in the box inventory below.

Photographs: Box 1

Related Materials

Allen, Lee. “The Hole in My Vision: An Artist’s View of His Own Macular Degeneration.” Iowa City, IA: Penfield Press, 2000. Includes a list of Mr. Allen’s publications.


Wong, D. and Fishman, M. “Lee Allen: The Man, The Legend.” Journal of Ophthalmic Photography. 12(2):51-67. 1990.

Acquisition and Processing Information

The University Libraries received the Lee Allen Collection of Card Paintings on August 28, 2003.

Guide posted to Internet: July 2005

Box Contents List

Box 1


Series I: Paintings


16 March 1995 – early morning

27 January 1996

27 January 1996

10 August 1996 – 7:00 a.m.

O.D. [n.d.]

O.D. [n.d.]

O.D. 1988

O.D. 1989

O.D. March 1, 1996

O.D. June 9, 1996

O.D. June 24, 1996

O.D. June 26, 1996 – pen light illuminated through pupil

O.D. August 14, 1996 – 7:00 a.m. – upon waking before rising

O.D. August 14, 1996 – 7:15 a.m.

O.D. September 4, 1996

O.D. September 6, 1996 – 7:40 a.m.

O.D. September 11, 1996

O.D. September 11, 1996 – first noticed 10:30 p.m.; slowly disappeared over next 5 minutes

O.D. May 4, 1997 – before second laser treatment

O.D. October 4, 1997

O.D. May 7, 1998 – 7:10 a.m.

O.S. 1988

O.S. 1994

O.S. 1994

O.S. July 8, 1995

O.S. July 27, 1995

O.S. July 27, 1995

O.S. January 27, 1996

O.S. March 1, 1996 – appears stable

O.S. June 5, 1996 – pen light illuminated through pupil

O.S. June 5, 1996

O.S. July 3, 1996 – 7:00 a.m.

O.S. July 15, 1996 – pen light illuminated through lid

O.S. July 18, 1996 – 5.5 hours post-laser

O.S. July 19, 1996

O.S. July 19, 1996

O.S. July 19, 1996

O.S. July 19, 1996

O.S. July 20, 1996

O.S. July 21, 1996 – pen light illuminated through pupil

O.S. August 18, 1996 – 5:00 a.m.

O.S. August 25, 1996 – 7:00 a.m.

O.S. September 22, 1996 – 11:30 a.m.

O.S. September 24, 1996 – 7:00 a.m. – day after third laser surgery

O.S. September 24, 1996 – 7:45 a.m.

O.S. October 7, 1996

O.S. October 17, 1996

O.S. October 17, 1996

O.S. October 23, 1996 – 10:30 p.m.

O.S. October 24, 1996 – 10:20 p.m.

O.S. October 24, 1996 – 10:20 p.m.

O.S. January 19, 1997 – six days before fourth laser surgery

O.S. January 20, 1997 – (lasered later; January 25, 1997)

O.S. April 20, 1997 – (lasered January 25, 1997)



Series II: Photographic prints


Photographic prints of most of the above-listed card paintings (48 prints)

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