Some days as an art dealer are better than others. Such as the day a great work, by a long admired artist, comes into your life. Dorothy Dehner (1901-1994) is one of my “You had me at hello” artists whose work I first saw more than 25 years ago. I’ve always wanted to own a sculpture by her, but the right opportunity never presented itself. Until now. A lovely little gem has found its way into our gallery, and as is the case with us art addicted folks, into my mind and heart. Please say hello to Ms. Dehner’s unique 1976 bronze (that means she cast exactly one) Bolton Landscape. Ms. Dehner fell in love with Bolton Landing, Lake George, and the Adirondack mountains after a visit in the late 1920s, when she and her then husband, sculptor David Smith, bought a farmhouse there with no running water or electricity in 1929. It was a love affair that lasted a lifetime.
Dehner led a fascinating life which included being a modern dancer, a twenty-five year marriage to sculptor David Smith, and an art career spanning sixty years. I admire her paintings and easel work, but it is her Abstract Expressionist sculpture, made with the lost-wax casting method starting in the mid-1950s, that I respond to most viscerally. From small “gems” such as our new piece, to her monumental work, Dorothy Dehner’s creative journey never faltered, even as failing eyesight and health were robbing her vitality in the mid-1980s. It is interesting to view a sketch she made in 1979 which, on a single small sheet of paper, she summarized the journey and touchstones of her life to that point…succinctly and with an artistic flair and twinkle that I hope I have when I approach my eighth decade.
In the Fall of 1993 a traveling exhibition of Ms. Dehner’s life and work came to The Hyde Collection, near her beloved Lake George. It was a great show, in a great little museum, and I had the pleasure to view this survey of her life’s work up close and personal. The catalogue is a beauty so if you happen to come across a copy in a used bookstore I suggest you snatch it up.
I’ll enjoy Ms. Dehner’s sculpture, which is perched just inches from my desk, until the next person comes along and says “You had me at hello”…