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A Special Look: Dorothy Dehner

ON VIEW: January 18—June 30, 2023

Dorothy Dehner’s work draws upon a primitive nature with each line, color, and form emphasizing both a visual and symbolic isolation.


Throughout her life, Dorothy Dehner explored many fields of art. She learned to paint as a child, pursued drama and performing arts in school, began drawing while traveling abroad, and studied sculpture when she returned to the U.S.

While traveling in Europe during the 1920s, she saw the work of the cubists and fauves. Struck in particular by the work of Pablo Picasso, she decided to spend much of her remaining time abroad drawing. When she returned to the United States, she began studying sculpture but eventually turning back to drawing. While at the Art Students League, Dehner met and married sculptor David Smith. Over the next decade, working from their farm in Bolton’s Landing, New York, Dehner and Smith remained heavily influenced by their experiences during trips to Europe.

In 1948, Dehner had a solo exhibition at Skidmore College, from which she later received a degree. The years following her divorce from Smith in 1951 were among her most stressful yet most important toward setting her artistic path for the future, experimenting with a variety materials and techniques. Her works evolved from printmaking to engraving to sculpting in wax, bronze, wood, and steel. By 1991, Dehner had lost almost all of her vision and ceased sculpting on her own, choosing, rather than stopping, to work with a fabricator to continue making work.

Dehner died in 1994.


A Special Look: Dorothy Dehner features a large selection of objects created by the artist and generously donated to the Neuberger Museum of Art by the Dorothy Dehner Foundation. 

Additional support for this project is provided by the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art.