Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Adolph Dehn: The American Regionalist Gone Wild

Noted American printmaker Adolf Dehn was a two-time recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, and he became one of the most important American printmakers of the 20th century. Throughout his artistic career, Dehn participated in the American Regionalism, Social Realism, and Caricature art movements. He began creating artwork at the age of six and by the time of his death, he had created an impressive body of over 600 prints! Imagine my surprise to find this very 'well-known' artist of the mid 20thc. - all but forgotten. Hopefully, this article will bring renewed interest in Dehn's work, and a new group of devotees. I, for one, am sold.

Dehn was born in Waterville, Minnesota, 1895 and died in New York City, 1968. His mother was a feminist, liberal, socialist member of the German Lutheran Evangelical Church and his father was an atheist and anarchist. Dehn went to the Minneapolis School of Art, then earned a scholarship to the Art Students League of New York. It would serve as a launching point for his career which would take him on travels around the globe and bring him fame and success.
In 1920 Dehn was introduced to printmaking by George Miller and Boardman Robinson. While in New York, Dehn threw himself into liberal politics.
After graduation, he was drafted to serve in World War I, but as a conscientious objector, Dehn refused to serve in the military and he was imprisoned for two years, spending four months in a boot camp in Spartanburg, SC, and eight months as a volunteer art instructor teacher at a hospital for war victims in Asheville, NC.

During the 1920s, after the war was over, Dehn spent eight years in Europe and got a reputation as a satirical printmaker. (In Paris, where he made lithographs at the Atelier Desjobert.) His subjects ranged from social satire to naturalistic landscapes. His cabaret, park scenes, burlesque and scenes of Europe's roaring 20's contrasted against his Midwest regional-looking landscapes, but he wisely used them as a means for selling when he established his own print club during the Great Depression. A number of his caricatures appeared in Vanity Fair.
It was in Paris that Dehn met his first wife, Mura Ziperovitch, a Russian dancer who had left the Soviet Union.In 1929 he and his wife returned to the New York, but the country's economic depression made their financial hardships too much to bear, and ultimately contributed to their divorce.
In the 1930s, Dehn's work began to appear in the New Yorker and Vogue. He earned a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1939, which allowed him to travel to the western United States and Mexico.
Dehn met his second wife, Virginia Engleman, (also an artist) when he participated with the American Artists Group, and they worked as artists for the rest of their lives. From 1938 to 1939 he taught at Stephens College in Columbia, MO. In 1940, he became a summer instructor at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. taught printmaking to other American artists.
As he became more widely recognized and financially successful, Dehn traveled to Key West, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Afghanistan, India and other countries.
Adolf Dehn is considered a prolific artist of great range. His works are found in over 100 museum permanent collections, including the Smithsonian Institute. Dehn’s breadth of work represents printmaking’s victory in the mid 20th century, and he was one of the most important artists in the American Regionalism/American Modernism movements. Thank goodness I found this man's work. I hope this brings some inspiration to others in their own artistic paths.

American Institute of Graphic Arts
American Printmakers Annual
Art Institute of Chicago
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Cleveland Museum of Art
Knoedler Gallery
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Museum of Modern Art
National University, Mexico
New York Public Library
Newark Public Library
Salons of America
Society of American Painters, Sculptors and Gravers
Weyhe Gallery, NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, 1933-1962

Permanent Collections
Arizona State University Art Museum
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Buffalo Art Center, Cody, WY
Butler Institute of American Art
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, FL
Denver Art Museum
Edwin Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Mount Olive College – Moye Library, Mount Olive, NC
Museum of Art at Brigham Young University
Museum of Modern Art
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Newark Museum
Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL
Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, WI
Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art
The Phillips Collection
Phoenix Art Museum
Robert Hull Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT
San Diego Museum of Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Sheldon Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, IN
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, PA
University of Arizona Museum of Art
University of Michigan Museum of Art
University of Minnesota
Whitney Museum of American Art
Woodstock Art Association, NY
Wright Museum of Art, Beloit, WI
*The Minnesota Historical Society and the Portland Museum of Art each have a complete collection of his prints.

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