Dorothy Dehner - painter and sculptor

Dorothy Dehner (1901–1994) was an American painter and sculptor.
Dorothy Dehner was born on December 23, 1901 in Cleveland, OH.  Her father was a pharmacist and her mother was a passionate suffragette. When Dehner was ten years old her father died and her two aunts Flo and Cora moved in. Cora aroused Dehner's curiosity about foreign culture with extravagant tales of her travels abroad. Cora's tales would later provide the inspiration for Dehner's solo trip to Europe in 1925.






After a brief sojourn back home in New York, Dehner returned to Europe in 1935 on and extensive tour with Smith. There, John D. Graham took Dehner and Smith all around Paris exposing them to modernist art as well as African sculpture.  Following their stay in Paris, in which they were immersed in avant-garde art, particularly in influences of Surrealism and Cubism, Dehner and Smith toured Greece.  Dehner entrenched herself in the culture and traditional sculpture of Greece.  The sketches she made while in Greece served as the foundational designs for later sculpture based on that trip. The titles of these sculptures, such as Minotaur and Demeter's Harrow reveal clear Greek influence.  Despite their avant-garde influences, works of Dehner during this period reflect a focus on naturalism and a desire to depict direct observations.  Her work during this trip to Europe highlights the vast range of technique Dehner possessed.
However her second trip to Europe with Smith did more than expose her to the modern and historical art of the continent. While in Europe, Dehner also found reinforcement for her leftist political views. Dehner and Smith both began to link their style of art with their particular political agenda. Many of the Smith's photographs from their travels are of refugee settlements, which were typically epicenters of communist beliefs. The couple acted on this leftward leaning ideology and went on a tour of the Soviet Union in June 1936.  In Russia they reunited with Graham and his wife, who focused their attention on the art of Russia and the link between modernist techniques and leftist political messages.






Dehner's belief in the communicative power of sculpture caused her to highlight contour over mass. She chose to construct her works from varying parts, a distinctly Constructivist quality. Dehner's sculptures emphasized line and plane over volume and exhibited an assembled as opposed to modeled quality. Her work was included in the 1960 Paris exhibition "Aspects of American Culture." Like many of the other works included, hers were primarily distinguished by their improvisation. In 1965, The Jewish Museum in New York City put on a retrospective exhibit of Dehner's sculpture.  This achievement is miraculous considering that she only began sculpture a decade earlier. Dehner began experimenting with wood sculpture in 1974, following the death of her second husband.  Much of Dehner's sculpture can be identified by its totemic qualities and emphasis on Constructivist principles. Additionally, it differs uniquely from Smith's work in its medium and construction. Much of Smith's sculpture employed welding as a construction technique, which Dehner did not embrace. In 1981 she took her sculpture to the next level, literally, and experimented with massive steel sculptures. By 1991 Dehner had lost nearly all of her vision and stopped sculpting. By 1993, however, she had figured out a way to collaborate with her fabricator to continue her sculpting.  After a prominent sculpture career later in life, Dehner died in New York on the 22nd of September 1994 at the age of ninety-two. Wikipedia







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