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George Deem papers, 1904-2015, bulk 1960-2008

George Deem papers, 1904-2015, bulk 1960-2008

Deem, George, 1932-2008


Collection Information

Size: 18.2 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter, writer, and dancer George Deem measure 18.2 linear feet and date from 1904-2015, with the bulk of the material dating from 1960-2008. The collection documents Deem's path from Midwestern farm child to New York City artist and teacher who specialized in recreating works of great masters, especially Johannes Vermeer. Correspondence, exhibition files, subject files, project files, writings by and about Deem, printed material, and photographic materials all show the trajectory of Deem's development as an artist.

Biographical materials include resumes, an address book, appointment books, birth and death certificates, obituaries and memorial tributes, passports, family histories, jury summons, grant applications, and military and educational records.

Correspondence is with family, friends, colleagues, curators, and art dealers. Much of the professional correspondence concerns commissions and reproduction permission requests. Among the correspondents are: Benny Andrews, Mieke Bal, Ulla Dydo, John Evans, Simone Fattal, Lee Guilliat, Vitaly Komar, and Dorothea Tanning. Correspondence with Walter Liedtke, Charles Molesworth, Robert Rosenblum, Arthur K. Wheeler, and Patricia William discusses proposed exhibitions and writings by Deem and others about his work.

Writings include some of Deem's classroom lectures, poems, and short pieces that appeared in independent literary arts publications.

Subject files document Deem's dealings with art consultants and galleries regarding placement of his work, participation in benefit auctions, and gifts of his artwork to the New Britain Museum of American Art. There is extensive correspondence with Allan Stone Gallery, Nancy Hoffman Gallery, and Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Deem's participation in mail art exhibitions is documented by exhibition announcements and correspondence. Also found is mail art correspondence from Richard Copy, Ray Johnson, Jean-Noel Lazlo, Antonio Sassu, Sam Wiener and others: some pieces are copies. The bulk of the project files chronicle Deem's artistic output. Information sheets and photographic materials provide provenance and source references for over 500 works. Files also document commissions undertaken by Deem including book projects, and set designs for dance and theater workshops. Exhibition files document solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad.

Printed material includes books by Deem, exhibition catalogs, reviews, and reproductions. In addition, there are articles and academic papers about Deem and his work. Photographic materials include photographs, digital prints and transparencies; subjects include Deem, family, friends, travels, studio, exhibition installations, and his artwork.

The addition to the George Deem papers consists of scattered biographical materials, correspondence, project and subject files, printed material, and photographic materials. The bulk consists of writings, including a memoir of his early days in New York. Twenty-three notebooks include notes and drafts of writings about his artwork; activities and meetings with colleagues and friends are also recorded. Among the photographic materials are five photograph albums - four are devoted to George Deem, his family, and friends; the fifth houses photographs of Deem's artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

George Deem (1932-2008), a New York City based painter was best known for his original reinterpretations of the works of master painters.


The George Deem papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 2013 and 2015 by Ronald Vance, executor of the George Deem estate.

A Finding Aid to the George Deem Papers, 1904-2015, bulk 1960-2008, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
George Deem (1932-2008), a New York City based painter was best known for his original reinterpretations of the works of master painters. Raised on an Indiana farm, Deem showed an early interest in art and after graduating from Vincennes University in 1952 enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His studies were interrupted by service in the U.S. Army. He completed his program at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1955.
After moving to New York City in 1958, Deem worked in the display department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art while continuing to paint original works after hours. His work was first exhibited at Barnard College, and in 1963 he had his first one man show at the Allan Stone Gallery, which represented him throughout his career. Later he also was affilated with Nancy Hoffman Gallery and Pavel Zoubok Gallery.
Deem travelled abroad, spending considerable time in Italy where he was influenced by classical art and architecture and began painting realistic figural images. He was interested in reinventing and reconstructing the art of the past, borrowing from artists such as Vermeer, Caravaggio, Goya and Millet. Deem produced a series of paintings relating to Vermeer's work, finally writing a book about this endeavor,
Art School and How to Paint a Vermeer
. Deem also wrote poetry, was involved in set design, and danced at Bennington College and other venues.
Deem's work was acknowledged in the academic world and he served as artist in residence or visiting artist at MacDowell Colony, Illinois State University, and other institutions. His work appeared in museum exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and is included in the permanent collections of museums including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, New Britain Museum of American Art, and Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University, as well as in private collections.
George Deem died in 2008 of lung cancer in New York City.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 9 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1938-circa 2013 (Boxes 1-2; 1.8 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1954-2013 (Boxes 2-6; 4.8 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, 1978-2012 (Box 6; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Subject Files, circa 1960-circa 2013 (Boxes 6-8; 1 linear feet)
Series 5: Project Files, 1952-circa 2013 (Boxes 8-13, Box 20; 5.0 linear feet)
Series 6: Exhibition Files, 1960-circa 2013 (Boxes 13-15; 1.4 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1966-circa 2013 (Boxes 15-16, OV 21; 1.1 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographic Materials, 1904-circa 2013 (Boxes 16-17, Box 20; 1.1 linear feet)
Series 9: Addition to the George Deem Papers, 1957-2015 (Boxes 17-19; 1.8 linear feet)
The George Deem papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 2013 and 2015 by Ronald Vance, executor of the George Deem estate.
Processing Information note
This collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared in 2015 by Joy Goodwin. A preliminary arrangement and description was prepared by Sue Fox on behalf of the Estate of George Deem.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

George Deem papers, 1904-2015, bulk 1960-2008. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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