Dorothy Dehner papers, 1920-1987, bulk 1951-1987
This site provides access to the papers of Dorothy Dehner in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2023, and total 6,645 images.
Jennifer Meehan and Stephanie Ashley
Scope and Contents
The papers of sculptor Dorothy Dehner measure 4 linear feet and date from 1920 to 1987, with the bulk of the material dating from 1951 to 1987. The collection documents Dehner's life, work, and professional and personal relationships, with particular focus on her mid-to-late career. Papers include extensive correspondence, business and financial papers, sound recordings and transcripts of interviews, writings by Dehner and others, printed material documenting Dehner's career, scattered photographs, two etchings, and scattered personal papers and material relating to David Smith.
Comprising a series of biographical material are personal papers such as notes on Dehner's biography and career, a list of things taken from Bolton Landing, and material relating to David Smith including 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.
Interviews include sound recordings of four interviews with Dehner, and a recording of an interview conducted with her for a documentary on David Smith. Also found is a transcription of an interview for which there is no recording.
Writings shed light on other aspects of Dehner's creativity and concerns. Dehner's writings include poems, such as one dated from high school and drafts of poems published in Tracks); and various pieces on John Graham. These include 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). Also found are writings on David Smith, including articles recalling Dehner's first meeting with him, and on Smith's 1940 work "Medals for Dishonor;" lectures and speeches; and various writings on art and other topics. Writings by others include essays on Dehner by Joan Marter and Judith McCandless.
Dehner's business and financial records document transactions with various galleries and art organizations and include records of loans, exhibitions, and sales through files for the Parsons-Dreyfuss Gallery, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Willard Gallery, and others. The series also includes scattered records relating to personal business matters and finances, such as Dehner's lists of artwork loaned, exhibited, and sold, receipts, tax records, and exhibition visitor books.
Printed material includes exhibition catalogs and announcements for Dehner's group and solo shows, and clippings on Dehner and a few other artists including David Smith. Artwork consists of two etchings, and photographs include photographs of Dehner, her second husband Ferdinand Mann, John Graham, and various works of art. Also found is an abstract photograph by David Smith, dating from circa 1934.
The Dorothy Dehner papers were donated from 1967-1987 in increments by Dorothy Dehner. Dehner also loaned material for microfilming between 1967 and 1977, some of which was subsequently donated. The art work in the collection most likely belonged to Garnett McCoy originally, and was included in the collection during processing in 2005.
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming on reels D298 (portions), D298A, 1269 (portions) and 1372, including photographs of Dorothy Dehner and David Smith, sketchbooks, correspondence between Dehner and Smith, an inventory, and some printed material. Loaned materials were returned to the lender after filming and are not described in the collection Container Listing.
Other resources in the Archives relating to Dorothy Dehner include oral history interviews with Dehner, October 1965 and December 1966, and a photograph of Dehner by Dena, 1966.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided in part by The Walton Family Foundation.
The Dorothy Dehner papers were typically microfilmed in the order they were loaned and/or donated; material comprising the last donation made in 1987 was never microfilmed. Portions of the collection received a preliminary level of processing after dontaion. The microfilmed and unmicrofilmed portions were integrated, the collection was processed, and a finding aid prepared by Jennifer Meehan in 2005-2006 with funding from the Terra Foundation for American Art. The collection was further processed and prepared for digitization by Stephanie Ashley and was digitized in 2023 with funding provided by The Walton Family Foundation.
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