A Finding Aid to the Dorothea A. Dreier Papers,
1881-1941, bulk 1887-1923 in the Archives of American Art, by Kathleen Brown
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Table of Contents:
- Biographical Information
- Overview of the Collection
- How to Use the Collection
- Detailed Description and Container Inventory
Dorothea A. Dreier was born on December 8, 1870, in Brooklyn, New York to German immigrant parents. The second of five children in a close knit, socially progressive family, her siblings include the social reformers and suffragettes Mary E. Dreier and Margaret Dreier Robins. However she was closest to her youngest sister, Katherine S. Dreier, fellow artist, patron of modern art and cofounder of the Société Anonyme, an organization dedicated to the promotion of modern art in the United States. Her sole brother, H. Edward Dreier, followed his father into business and managed the family investments.
Of all the Dreier sisters, Dorothea is the least well-known and there is scant information about her artistic career. It appears that she began her formal art training with John Twachtman and William Merritt Chase, although accounts disagree as to whether it took place at the Art Students League or the National Academy of Design. In 1904 Dorothea and her sister Katherine began studying with the painter Walter Shirlaw, with whom they developed a close friendship. Both sisters also traveled abroad frequently as the family maintained close ties with their German relatives and they combined these visits with trips to museums and galleries throughout Europe where they studied the works of the Old Masters as well as more contemporary artists. As evidenced by her series of oil paintings of Dutch weavers of 1908, Dorothea was greatly influenced by Van Gogh's early paintings of rural Dutch peasant life and she spent long periods abroad living and painting in Laren, The Netherlands. Her later paintings depicted landscapes, both in The Netherlands and the Adirondacks, as well as a series of New York street scenes.
Unfortunately, during a 1913 sojourn in Laren, Dorothea contracted tuberculosis. She remained at Saranac Lake, a renowned treatment center in the Adirondacks from late December 1913 to sometime in 1916. During her convalescence, Dorothea remained actively involved in the arts as she continued to paint and draw and supported her sister Katherine's work at the Cooperative Mural Workshop, a short-lived combination art school and workshop that focused on the decorative arts.
In 1920, Dorothea supported Katherine's decision to champion modern art and made generous financial contributions toward the establishment of the Société Anonyme, where Dorothea's first solo exhibition took place in 1921. This was her only solo exhibition prior to her untimely death in 1923. In the spring of 1925, Christian Brinton of the Brooklyn Museum of Art organized a memorial exhibition for which Katherine Dreier privately published a limited edition catalogue.
Overview of the Collection
Scope and Contents
The papers of the painter Dorothea A. Dreier measure 2.6 linear feet and date from 1881 to 1941, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1887-1923. These papers document not only her life and work as an artist, but also the activities of her distinguished family in the realms of social reform, women's suffrage, and politics, through correspondence, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, broadsides, exhibition catalogs, publications, photographs, ephemera, a sketchbook, and legal and financial records.
Biographical materials include official documents, childhood writings, notes, ephemera, membership cards, invitations, programs, notes, lists, and legal and financial records.
Measuring 1.2 linear feet, correspondence is the largest and most extensive series and consists of letters from family and close friends as well as business correspondence. Although the letters in this series span from 1881-1925, a large number stem from Dorothea's 1913-1916 stay at Saranac Lake for treatment of her tuberculosis.
Family correspondents consist of members of Dorothea's immediate family as well as more distant relations, including those who resided in her parent's native Germany. Letters from her sisters Mary E. Dreier, and Margaret (Gretchen) Dreier Robins, her sister-in-law Ethyl Eyre Valentine Dreier and brother-in-law Raymond Robins provide some insight into the varied social reform and political movements, such as women's suffrage and the Bull Moose Party, with which they were allied. Additionally both Mary and Margaret were active in the Women's Trade Union League, Margaret having served as the League's president from 1907-1922. Therefore their correspondence is a rich resource for scholars interested in women's history and the history of the Progressive Era in the United States.
Due to their shared interest in the arts, her sister Katherine S. Dreier's letters provide information about her own work as an artist, particularly when she was studying abroad, exhibitions in which she participated or visited, and the Cooperative Mural Workshop, a combination art school and workshop that she ran from 1914-1917 with Walt Kuhn, with substantial financial help from Dorothea.
Additionally through her Brooklyn neighborhood, art classes, and support of numerous social causes, Dorothea had a large circle of friends. Frequent correspondents include the Bartlett sisters, Agnes, Mary, and Maud, Rebecca Forbes, Ellen Kuhn Mahan, and Charlotte Schetter. Notable art world correspondents include Vincent van Gogh's sister Elisabeth du Quesne van Gogh, the American Tonalist landscape painter Charles Harold Davis and Dreier's painting instructor and close friend, the painter Walter Shirlaw.
Printed materials reflect the varied interests and activities of Dorothea Dreier and select members of her immediate family through exhibition announcements, catalogs, including a numbered copy of the The Dorothea A. Dreier Exhibition from the memorial exhibition of her work at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1925, newspaper clippings relating to her career, the activities of other members of the Dreier family, art and politics; as well as pamphlets, broadsides, brochures and blank postcards.
Photographs include both studio portraits and informal snapshots of Dorothea and Katherine Dreier; group photographs including Dorothea; travel photographs, many of which appear to have been taken in the Netherlands; and photographs of Teddy Roosevelt giving a speech at a railway station. Artworks include a sketchbook by Dreier, five sketchbooks by friend and teacher, Walter Shirlaw, and an unidentified artist, a pencil drawing by Shirlaw, an engraving by Huquier and an etching by Ernest D. Roth.
Arrangement and Series Description
The collection is arranged into 5 series:
- Series 1: Biographical Material, 1884-1923 (Box 1; 0.75 linear feet)
- Series 2: Correspondence, 1881-1925 (Boxes 1-2; 1.2 linear feet)
- Series 3: Printed Material, 1883-1916 (Boxes 2-3; 0.5 linear feet)
- Series 4: Photographs, circa 1900-1923 (Box 3; 7 folders)
- Series 5: Artwork, circa 1885-1941 (Boxes 3-4; 9 folders)
Subjects and Names
This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:
- Women's Trade Union League of America
- Cooperative Mural Workshop
- Women painters--New York (State)--New York
Types of Materials:
- Bartlett, Agnes Willard
- Bartlett, Mary F.
- Bartlett, Maud W.
- Davis, Charles H. (Charles Harold), 1856-1938
- Dreier, Katherine Sophie, 1877-1952
- Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963
- Dreier, Ethyl Eyre Valentine
- Forbes, Rebecca
- Gogh, Elisabeth du Quesne van, 1859-1936
- Kuhn, Walt, 1877-1949
- Mahan, Ellen Kuhn
- Schetter, Charlotte
- Robins, Raymond, 1873-1954
- Robins, Margaret Dreier
- Shirlaw, Walter, 1838-1909
The bulk of the collection was donated to the Archives of American Art in 1959 by Mrs. Peter Voorhees, Dorothea A. Dreier's neice. Additional materials were donated in 2007 by Theodore and Barbara Dreier, Dreier's great-nephew and great-neice.
Separated and Related Materials
The papers of Katherine S. Dreier related to the Société Anonyme Archives are located at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.
The Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University holds the papers of Mary E. Dreier
How the Collection was Processed
The portion of the collection donated in 1959 received preliminary processing before it was microfilmed on reels D106-D108, The papers donated in 2007 had not been processed. The papers were merged, fully processed, arranged and described in accordance with archival standards by Kathleen Brown in 2008 as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Grant.
How to Use the Collection
Restrictions on Use
The bulk of this collection has been digitized and is available online via the Archives of American Art's website.
Ownership & Literary Rights
The Dorothea A. Dreier papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2008 and is available via the Archives of American Art's website. Duplicate materials, banking records and a portion of the printed materials were not scanned.
How to Cite this Collection
Dorothea A. Dreier papers, 1881-1941, bulk 1887-1923. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Detailed Description and Container Inventory
Biographical Material, 1884-1923
(Box 1; 0.75 linear feet)
Items in this series document aspects of the life of Dorothea A. Dreier and include official documents, childhood writings, notes, ephemera, membership cards, invitations, programs, notes, lists, and financial records.
Official records include Dorothea Dreier's 1912 Passport, insurance policies and a supplemental account to her last will and testament. The folder of invitations, programs and memberships document concerts, recitals, weddings, parties, and exhibitions that Dreier may have attended as well as her membership at the York Club. Scattered amongst the accounts and receipts for household items are receipts for art supplies, frames, and other art-related materials. Other financial records consist of banking records including account passbooks, registers,and cancelled checks.
Banking records have not been scanned.
|1||2||Last Will and Testament - Supplemental Account, 1926|
|1||3||Insurance Policies, 1912-1915|
|1||4||Childhood Writings, 1884-1886|
|1||5||Writing Fragments and Notes, circa 1900-1920|
|1||6||Lists, before 1923|
|1||7||Datebook, 1912 October|
|1||8||Invitations, Programs and Memberships, circa 1894-1914|
|1||9||Ephemera, circa 1887-1920|
Accounts, Bills and Receipts, 1887-1918
Brooklyn Trust Company Account Passbook, 1917-1918
Brooklyn Trust Company Check Register, 1916
Cancelled Checks, 1912
Cancelled Checks, 1915
(3 folders; not scanned)
Cancelled Checks, 1916
(2 folders; not scanned)
Cancelled Checks, 1917
Cancelled Checks, 1919
(2 folders; not scanned)
Cancelled Checks, 1920
Cancelled Checks, 1923
(2 folders; not scanned)
(Box 1-2; 1.2 linear feet)
This series contains the correspondence of Dorothea Dreier. Most of the letters are from family and close friends, who addressed her using affectionate nicknames, including "Dodo," "DAD," and "Dadakins." While the letters in this series span from 1881-1925, the majority of them date from 1913-1916, the period during which Drier was at Saranac Lake receiving treatments for her tuberculosis. Business and third-party correspondence, visiting cards, Christmas cards, telegrams, and postcards are also found in this series.
Due to the number of letters and correspondents this series has been divided into 2 subseries:
This series has been scanned in its entirety.
2.1: Family Correspondence, 1881-1923
Family correspondence consists of letters from relatives including members of her immediate family and more distant relatives from Germany. Whenever the relationship of the correspondent to Dorothea is known it has been noted in the folder title. Scattered throughout are letters from Dorothea; most of these were written to her mother (also named Dorothea A. Dreier) and her brother, H. Edward Dreier. Third party correspondence between family members is also found within this subseries.
There is a large group of letters, postcards, telegrams, and a scrapbook containing additional postcards and letters dated 1887, written by Theodor and his daughters Dorothea and Margaret (Gretchen), to Mrs. Dreier, who appears to have remained behind at the family's Brooklyn home while the other correspondents traveled cross-country to California. Some of the early letters between family members are written in German.
Dorothea Dreier enjoyed a close and affectionate relationship with her siblings, which is reflected in their correspondence. In addition to recounting quotidian family news and events, letters from her sisters and brother document the public lives of the correspondents. Her sisters Mary E. Dreier and Margret (Gretchen) Dreier Robins discuss their work for the Women's Trade Union League, the women's suffrage movement and the Bull Moose Party. Her brother Edward's letters provide information about family investments and recount the activities of his wife the suffragist, Ethyl Eyre Valentine Dreier. Dorothea was especially close to her youngest sister Katherine due to their shared interest in the arts. Katherine's letters include references to her painting and studies abroad, exhibitions, and the Cooperative Mural Workshop. However, only one letter, dated September 2, 1920, briefly mentions the Société Anonyme.
This subseries has been scanned in its entirety.
|1||28||Dreier, Anna (cousin), circa 1912-1914|
|1||29||Dreier, Antoinette (niece), 1913-1915|
|1||30||Dreier, Dorothea A., 1907-1914|
Dreier, Dorothea A. (mother), 1887-1897
|1||33||Dreier, Dorothea A. (mother) - Postcards and Telegrams, 1887|
|1||34||Dreier, Ethyl Eyre Valentine (sister-in-law), 1912-1915|
Dreier, H. Edward (brother), circa 1889-1897
(letters received from Dorothea A. Dreier)
Dreier, H. Edward (brother), 1908-1915
Dreier, Katherine S. (sister), 1887, 1908-1923
|1||41||Dreier, Ludwig, 1881, 1899|
Dreier, Mary E. (sister), 1908-1923
|1||44||Dreier, Theodor (father), 1882-1897, 1916|
|1||45||Dreier, Theodor (nephew), 1912-1915|
|1||46||Knoch, Meta and Elizabeth, 1909-1915|
Robins, Margaret "Gretchen" Dreier (sister), 1907-1915
|2||1||Robins, Raymond (brother-in-law), 1910-1915|
|2||2||Miscellaneous Family Members, 1908-1915|
|2||3||Scrapbook of Family Correspondence 1887|
2.2: Personal and General Correspondence, 1884-1925
This subseries includes letters from close friends, visiting cards, notes, telegrams, postcards, third party correspondence and business correspondence. Additionally there is a folder of telegrams from Katherine Dreier informing friends and family of Dorothea's death and two folders of condolence letters received by the Dreier family.
Close friends and regular correspondents include the Bartlett sisters, Agnes, Mary and Maud, Charlotte Schetter, Ellen Kuhn Mahan, Rebecca Forbes, and fellow art student Lillian Miller. Through her travels in the Netherlands and her interest in Vincent van Gogh, Dreier became friends with the artists' sister Elisabeth du Quesne van Gogh and there are six postcards from her in this collection. A 1923 letter from Joseph Stella thanks "Miss Dreier" for purchasing his painting White Heron, but it is impossible to tell if he is referring to Dorothea or Katherine. Julius A. Gross, a local photographer, mentions visiting Dorothea's studio and describes the work found within his letters and includes rough sketches of paintings. He may have been contracted to photograph her work for her during her time at Saranac Lake for a proposed publication.
Other notable art world correspondents include Charles Harold Davis, the American Tonalist landscape painter, and Walter Shirlaw, a painter who not only was Dreier's teacher, but also a close friend. The Davis letters suggest that Dreier had hoped to study with him, but his letter of 1902 indicates that he would not be teaching that summer and suggests other painting instructors. Other letters discuss paintings that she purchased from the artist. Shirlaw's letters, along with those of his wife Florence, discuss the artist's plans to paint Dorothea's portrait, as well as current exhibitions, works that he has sold, and planned visits to the Dreier sisters, whom he affectionately labeled "the sisterhood." Several of his letters included illustrations.
Third party correspondence written to Katherine Dreier includes a letter from Walt Kuhn, dated October 14, 1914 that may refer to activities of the Cooperative Mural Workshop. The business correspondence for Dorothea Dreier includes letters related to household purchases, insurance policies, investment accounts and travel reservations. The folder of Katherine Dreier's business correspondence solely is related to work on her home in Stonington, Connecticut.
This subseries has been scanned in its entirety.
General A-B, 1884-1915
|2||5||Bartlett, Agnes Willard, 1908-1915|
|2||6||Bartlett, Mary Fairbanks, 1907-1914|
|2||7||Bartlett, Maud 1908-1916|
General C-D, circa 1907-1923
|2||9||Davis, Charles H. and Frances P., 1902-1910|
General E-G, 1892-1915
|2||11||Edsall, Mrs. David (P.K.), 1914-1915|
|2||12||Forbes, Rebecca and Reba, 1907-1915|
|2||13||Foster, Alice H., circa 1914|
|2||14||Gogh, Elisabeth du Quesne van, circa 1914-1923|
|2||15||Gross, Julius A., 1912-1915|
General H-K, 1888-1915
|2||17||Hoppins, Mae, 1914|
General L-N, 1887-1915
|2||19||Mahan, Ellen Kuhn, 1893-1914|
|2||20||Miller, Lillian, 1910-1914|
General O-P, circa 1890-1915
|2||22||Prout, J.S. and Lillian C., circa 1910-1915|
General Q-R, 1887-1915
General S, circa 1889-1923
|2||25||Schetter, Charlotte, 1888-1915|
Shirlaw, Florence M., 1903-1914
Shirlaw, Walter, 1903-1909
(includes 3 illustrated letters)
General T-W, circa 1900-1915
|2||31||Williston, Mary L., 1910-1915|
|2||32||Unidentified Correspondents, circa 1887-1923|
|2||33||Letter Fragments, before 1923|
|2||34||Third Party Correspondence to Katherine Dreier, 1914-1925|
|2||35||Visting Cards and Notes, circa 1900-1915|
|2||36||Christmas Cards, circa 1912-1913|
|2||37||Telegrams Concerning the Death of Dorothea A. Dreier, 1923|
Condolences on the Death of Dorothea A. Dreier, 1923-1924
Business Correspondence, 1897-1916
|2||42||Business Correspondence to Katherine S. Dreier, 1908-1910|
Printed Materials, circa 1883-1941
(Boxes 2-3; 0.5 linear feet
Found in this series are newspaper clippings, exhibition announcements, catalogs, pamphlets, broadsides, maps and blank postcards. Exhibition announcements and catalogs primarily document exhibitions of paintings and drawings by both Dorothea and Katherine Dreier, and include a numbered edition of The Dorothea A. Dreier Exhibition that Katherine Dreier printed privately to commemorate the memorial exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1925.
Newspaper clippings record the artistic, social and political activities of the Dreier family as well as other subjects of interest to Dorothea. A folder of pamphlets and broadsides provide information concerning the political, social and charitable causes that Dorothea supported, including the Home for Recreation of Woman and Children that her mother founded in 1898 as the German Home for Women and Children. Finally there is a collection of postcards assembled from her travels.
In most cases, only the cover and title page of exhibition catalogs, brochures and pamphlets have been scanned. Blank postcards, general travel materials, and clippings, brochures and advertisements unrelated to the Dreiers or their interests, have not been scanned.
|2||43||Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1911-1941|
|2||44||Exhibition Catalog: The Dorothea A. Dreier Exhibition, 1925|
|2||45||Clippings concerning Dorothea A. Dreier, 1921-1925|
|2||46||Clippings concerning Other Dreier Family Members, circa 1912-1916|
|2||47||Clippings, Illustrations of New York, New York, circa 1910-1915|
|2||48||Clippings, Art, circa 1910-1916.0|
|2||49||Clippings, Political Topics, circa 1912-1914|
Clippings, General, circa 1910-1916
|3 (hol)||1||Pamphlets and Broadsides, 1887-1914|
General Brochures and Advertisements, circa 1883-1916
General Travel Materials, circa 1906-1916
Blank Postcards, before 1923
(3 folders; not scanned)
Photographs, circa 1900-1923
(Box 3; 7 folders)
Photographs in this series include studio portraits and informal photographs of Dorothea and Katherine Dreier, group photographs, and a reproduction of a painting by Katherine S. Dreier. There is also a folder of vintage photographs, many of which appear to have been taken in the Netherlands. This group of general photographs also includes several snapshots that seem to document a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt at a railway station.
A photographic postcard of a painting by Katherine S. Dreier was not scanned.
Dorothea A. Dreier, circa 1885-1923
(3 folders; 18 vintage prints)
Dorothea A. Dreier with Others, circa 1900-1923
(10 vintage prints)
Katherine S. Dreier, circa 1910-1920
(6 vintage prints)
General Photographs, circa 1900-1923
(47 vintage prints)
Works of Art, undated
Artwork, circa 1885 - 1941
(Box 3; 9 Folders)
Items in this series include sketchbooks, a matted graphite drawing and two prints. Only one item, an undated sketchbook of botanical drawings, is the work of Dorothea Dreier. There is a sketchbook titled L.S.S. by an unidentified artist that includes pencil sketches done aboard the transatlantic liner the S.S. Lahn and locations across Western Europe in the summer of 1901. Finally there are five sketchbooks belonging to friend and teacher Walter Shirlaw containing pencil, watercolor and crayon sketches that suggest designs for mural paintings. There is also a matted pencil drawing of a toad that Shirlaw has inscribed "Dorothea Dreir's Coat of Arms, The Biggest Toad in the Puddle." Finally prints include an undated Huquier engraving from several studies of dogs by Sneyders and Ernest D. Roth's 1941 etching for the Friends of the Brooklyn Public Library.
This series has been scanned in its entirety.
|3 (hol)||14||Dorothera A. Dreier Sketchbook, undated|
|4 (pam)||1||Sketchbook "L.S.S.," 1901|
Walter Shirlaw Sketchbooks, before 1909
(5 folders; 5 sketchbooks)
Walter Shirlaw Artwork, circa 1903-1904
(includes a drawing, The Biggest Toad in the Puddle, and a watercolor of a turkey)
|4 (pam)||8||Prints by Other Artists, 1941 and undated|