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Adolf Dehn papers, 1912-1987

More Information

Kathleen Brown
Scope and Contents
The papers of printmaker and painter Adolf Dehn measure 6.6 linear feet and date from 1912-1987. The collection contains extensive correspondence, as well as writings, exhibition announcements, catalogs, clippings, invoices, receipts, legal documents, scrapbooks, artwork, and photographs. There is also scattered correspondence of Virginia Dehn, mostly concerning her husband Adolf Dehn.
Found within the biographical materials are several address books, official travel documents, exhibition price lists, and a biographical sketch.
Correspondence, both personal and business, makes up the bulk of this collection. Dehn maintained long friendships with many fellow artists and his correspondence includes letters from Aaron Bohrod, Federico Castellon, Albert Christ-Janer, Wanda Gág, Gustav Goetsch, George Grosz, Reginald Marsh, Elizabeth Olds, Abraham Rattner, Boardman Robinson, Frederick Shane, William Smith, and Benton Spruance. Additional notable correspondents include print dealer and curator Carl Zigrosser; journalists Max Eastman, Joseph Freeman, Frederick Kuh; editor Scofield Thayer, and his former wife, the Russian dancer Mura Dehn (neé Tsiperovitch). Business correspondence includes letters from art schools, associations, museums, and galleries affiliated with Dehn, including the Weyhe Gallery; Associated American Artists, a gallery that promoted American art to the middle classes; and the Kennedy Gallery, which represented the Dehn estate upon the artist's death. There is also correspondence from companies and organizations that commissioned commercial work from Dehn, such as greeting card publisher, American Artists Group . Finally the correspondence of Virginia Dehn includes letters to and from the University of Missouri Press related to the publication of Adolf Dehn Drawings and condolence cards and letters from friends and associates after the Adolf Dehn's death in May 1968.
Writings include manuscripts for Adolf Dehn's manual on painting technique, Watercolor, Gouache, and Casein Painting (Studio Publications, 1955), as well as his entries on technique and watercolor painting for Encyclopedia Britannica. Writings by others includes the catalog Adolf Dehn Drawings, prepared by his wife Virginia Dehn, and published in 1971 by the University of Missouri Press. There is also a journal with handwritten poems attributed to Eileen Hall Lake.
Printed materials consists of exhibition announcements and catalogs from galleries featuring Dehn's work including the Weyhe Gallery and Associated American Artists; art school brochures and newsletters from programs which Dehn attended or taught; and newspaper and magazine clippings including examples of his editorial cartoons, which appeared in The Liberator, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, among other publications as well as clippings of news items related to the artist. This series also includes examples of Dehn's commercial work, such as book covers, calendars, and Christmas cards. Additional similar printed materials can be found in the scrapbooks. Artwork consists of only a few sketches attributed to Dehn, others to Eileen Lake Hall, and an etching by S.W. Hayter.
Dehn is well documented through numerous photographs, both alone and with others, including a portrait by the renowned photographer André Kertész. Additional vintage photographs include Dehn with family members, friends, and a series of photographs taken with his wife, Virginia Dehn at Atelier Desjobert, where he had been making lithographs since the 1920s.
The Adolf Dehn papers were donated in several installments from 1966 to 1985 by Adolf Dehn and his wife Virginia. Dehn's sisters, Viola Dehn Tiala and Olivia Dehn Mitchell, separately donated additional materials in 1971 and 1972. Olivia Dehn Mitchell also loaned the Archives letters from Adolf in 1983 for microfilming. Finally in 1989, Lillian Morrison, a friend and editor, donated a published book of Mura Dehn's poetry and a four page draft of a letter signed by Adolf Dehn.
Separated Material
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming. Reel 287 contains printed materials, including exhibition announcements, catalogs, magazines, and newspaper and magazine clippings. After filming, these materials were transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library. Reels 2938-2939 include 750 letters from Adolf Dehn to various family members. This material was returned to the lender and is not described in the collection container inventory.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Processing Information
Beginning with the first accession in 1966, each accession received preliminary processing sometime after receipt and portions were also also microfilmed reels 283, 287, 1048-1049, and 3134; this film is no longer in circulation. All accessions were merged, re-processed and described in this finding aid by Kathleen Brown in 2009 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.