Dorothy Dehner, American (1901 - 1994)

Dorothy Dehner

Dorothy Dehner (1901–1994) was an American sculptor.

Dorothy Dehner was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1901. Dehner moved to Pasadena, California, in 1915 and attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied modern dance. In 1922, after resolving to become an actress, she moved to New York to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Art. A trip to Europe in 1925 provided opportunities to see work by important modern artists such as Picasso and Matisse; this inspired her to pursue a career as an artist, with a strong interest in sculpture. Returning to New York, she enrolled at the Art Students League, but became disenchanted when exposed to the more traditional and formal styles espoused by her instructors. At this time, she turned to painting in a more modern style, reflecting her interest in the more progressive and abstract style of cubist art.

She met fellow artist David Smith in 1926, and they were married from 1927 to 1952. They lived at Bolton Landing, New York, where she concentrated on drawing and painting from 1940 to 1950. The Smith's met Wilhelmina Weber Furlong and Thomas Furlong (artist) in New York City at the famed Art Students League and were introduced to the community of Bolton Landing by the avant gard couple.

She and Smith separated in 1950. She studied printmaking with Stanley Hayter at Atelier 17. She turned to sculpture in bronze and metal, eventually working with wood. In 1952, she had a solo exhibition at the Rose Fried Gallery. In 1955, she married Ferdinand Mann, a publisher. In 1957, she had a one-woman exhibition at the Willard Gallery New York City. In 1970-1971, she was a visiting artist at the Tamarind Institute.

Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

During the 1950s and 1960s, she made sculpture in bronze as well as direct metal constructions. Eventually she began working with wood, experimenting with her forms and incorporating jagged elements, and finally, making block-like, towering structures. From 1952 to her death in 1994, Dehner had more than 50 solo exhibitions of her work in various media within the United States and executed numerous public commissions for such organizations as the New York Medical College, Rockefeller Center, and the American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. Dehner continued making sculpture until her death in 1994.

The Dorothy Dehner Foundation manages her artistic estate.

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