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Dorothea A. Dreier papers, 1881-1941, bulk 1887-1923

Dreier, Dorothea A. (Dorothea Adelheid), 1870-1923


The papers of Dorothea A. (Dorothea Adelheid) Dreier in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2009. The bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 4,336 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 2.6 linear feet

Summary: 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.

Biographical/Historical Note

Dorothea A. Dreier (1870-1923) was a landscape painter from Brooklyn, N.Y. Dorothea was 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. Her sole brother, H. Edward Dreier, followed his father into business and managed the family investments. Her youngest sister, Katherine S. Dreier, was a 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. Dorothea and Katherine Dreier studied painting at the Art Students League, with Walter Shirlaw, and in Europe. While in Holland, in 1913, Dorothea contracted tuberculosis and was forced to return to the U.S. 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 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.


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.

Related Materials

The Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University holds the papers of Mary E. Dreier.

Language Note

Some of the letters from Theodor and Ludwig Dreier are in German.


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.