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Dorothy Dehner papers, 1920-1987, bulk 1951-1987

Dehner, Dorothy, 1901-1994

Painter, Printmaker, Sculptor

Collection Information

Size: 4.5 linear feet

Summary: Papers include extensive correspondence, business and financial papers, writings, interviews, printed material, photographs, student papers, one item of art work, and scattered personal papers and material relating to her first husband sculptor David Smith.
Comprising a series of biographical material are interviews (mostly untranscribed), personal papers such as notes on Dehner's biography and career, list of things taken from Bolton Landing, recipes, and a wedding announcement for her stepdaughter, Abby Mann Thernstrom, and material relating to David Smith such as a copy of his last will and testament, a letter of introduction (dating from their trip to Europe in the mid-1930s), and a chronology of Smith's life.
Correspondence consists of numerous letters and enclosures concerning both professional and personal matters. Correspondents include artists, museums, galleries, art dealers, researchers, curators, friends, and relatives. Correspondence documents Dehner's various personal and professional relationships, the active role she played in promoting and exhibiting her art work, as well as the key role she played in fostering art historical research (on David Smith, herself, and other artists of her era), and her many other creative activities, including her various writing efforts.
Found amongst Dehner's business and financial papers are records relating to various galleries and/or exhibitions, including the Willard Gallery and exhibitions at the Philadelphia Art Alliance and Parsons-Dreyfuss Gallery, and to various projects, such as the Committee for the American Participation in the Triennale and the Great Southwest Industrial Park, as well as scattered records relating to personal business matters and finances, such as lists, tax records, authentication of art works, and sales agreements.
Dehner's writings include poems (including one dated from high school and drafts of ones published in Tracks), various pieces on John Graham (including versions of a memoir, which were published as a foreword to the re-issue of System and Dialectics of Art and as an article in Leonardo) and on David Smith (including articles on their first meeting and on Smith's 1940 work, "Medals for Dishonor"), lectures and speeches, and various pieces on art and other topics. Writings shed light on other aspects of Dehner's creativity and concern. Also included are writings of others, some of which shed light on Dehner's life and work.
Printed material includes exhibition catalogs, announcements, and clippings (on herself and Smith, and to a limited extent, on other artists). Photographs are of Dehner, her second husband, Ferdinand Mann, John Graham, and various works of art, as well as an abstract photograph by David Smith, dating from circa 1934.
Art work includes two etchings. One, undated, is of portraits of artists done by one another on one etching plate. Artists include (left to right) top row: Lucille Corcos by Dehner, David Smith by Lucille Corcos, Adolph Gottlieb by Edgar Levy, bottom row: Edgar Levy by Esther Gottlieb, Dorothy Dehner by Adolph Gottlieb, Esther Gottlieb by David Smith. A cat and alligator were drawn by Edgar Levy in the middle border. The etching is 91/100 and was printed by Michael Kirk on the Charles Brand Press in the Parsons School of Design Studios and seems to have originally belonged to Garnett McCoy, former Curator of the Archives. The second etching is an abstract by Dehner, also undated.

Biographical/Historical Note

Dorothy Dehner (1901-1994) was a sculptor from New York, N.Y. Dehner was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She married sculptor David Smith in 1927.


The Dorothy Dehner papers were donated 1967-1987 in increments by Dorothy Dehner. She also lent materials for microfilming between 1967 and 1977, some of which was subsequently donated.

Related Materials

Location of Originals

  • Reels D298A, 1372 and portions of reels D298 and 1269: Originals returned to Dorothy Dehner after microfilming.