Dreier, Katherine Sophie, 1877-1952

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1877-09-10
Death 1952-03-29
Americans
French, English, German, Spanish; Castilian

Biographical notes:

Painter and co-founder/president of the Société Anonyme, Inc.

From the description of Correspondence, 1928-1929. (Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)). WorldCat record id: 122577860

Katherine S. Dreier, artist, promoter of modern art, and co-founder of the Société Anonyme.

Société Anonyme, organization founded in 1920 by Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray to promote modern art among the public.

From the description of Katherine S. Dreier papers / Société Anonyme archive, 1818-1952 (bulk 1920-1951) (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81675455

Katherine S. Dreier, artist, promoter of modern art, and co-founder of the Société Anonyme.

Société Anonyme, organization founded in 1920 by Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray to promote modern art among the public.

From the description of Katherine S. Dreier papers / Société Anonyme archive, 1818-1952 (bulk 1920-1951). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702150772

Katherine Sophie Dreier was born on 10 September 1877 in Brooklyn, New York to Dorothea Adelheid and John Caspar Theodor Dreier, both immigrants from Bremen, Germany; she was the youngest of five children. Early on, Dreier manifested her dual interests in social issues and art. She was treasurer of the German Home for Recreation of Women and Children and helped to found the Little Italy Neighborhood Association in Brooklyn, New York. She studied art privately, then at the Brooklyn Art School and at Pratt Institute, and then with Walter Shirlaw (with whom Dreier's sister, Dorothea, also studied). There was a strong identification in the Dreier home with German culture, and the family often traveled to Europe to visit relatives. Between 1907 and 1914, Dreier spent much of her time abroad, traveling, studying art, and exhibiting her work in one-artist shows.

In New York, in 1916, through her work with the Society of Independent Artists, Dreier met Marcel Duchamp. He was to become a close friend and colleague, and an important figure in the history of the Société Anonyme.

In January 1920, Dreier, Duchamp, and Man Ray met in Dreier's apartment in New York City to found the Société Anonyme, a society to promote modern art among the American public. Dreier had wanted to call the society "The Modern Ark," but Man Ray later claimed that he was the one to suggest the French phrase for "incorporated" instead. Dreier added the subtitle "Museum of Modern Art: 1920."

The Société Anonyme sponsored many lectures, concerts, publications, and exhibitions concerning modern art, including the International Exhibition of Modern Art at the Brooklyn Museum in 1926. In spite of a major membership campaign in 1925, the Société's headquarters in New York City closed in 1928, and from this point on, the Société Anonyme existed only through Dreier's efforts. She continued to organize events that were sponsored by the Société, and she accumulated artwork to add to the Société Anonyme's collection.

In 1939, Dreier began developing a plan to open the Country Museum at her house in West Redding, Connecticut (the Haven), which would house the Société Anonyme's collection of artwork, as well as her private collection. After little success with other potential investors, Dreier approached Yale University about funding and maintaining the museum. Yale was hesitant, because of the high costs of renovating the Haven and maintaining it as a fire-proof museum, and instead offered as a compromise to take over the Société Anonyme's collection if it were moved to the Yale Art Gallery. Dreier agreed, and she began sending the collection to Yale in October 1941.

In 1942, Dreier was still adamant about her desire to open the Country Museum and to use her private collection as its basis. She continued her attempts to convince Yale to fund her project, but when Yale gave a final negative answer in April, Dreier decided to sell the Haven.

In April 1946, she moved to a new home, Laurel Manor, in Milford, Connecticut. She continued to add artwork to the Société Anonyme collection at Yale, through purchases and through gifts from artists and friends. In 1947, she attempted to reopen membership to the Société Anonyme and printed a brochure, but Yale blocked distribution of the brochure because of the ambiguous connection between Yale and the membership campaign. In 1948, Dreier and Duchamp decided to limit the activities of the Société to working on a catalog of the collection and to acquiring artwork.

On the thirtieth anniversary of the Société Anonyme's first exhibition, 30 April 1950, Dreier and Duchamp hosted a dinner at the New Haven Lawn Club, where they formally dissolved the Société Anonyme. In June, a catalog of the Société's collection at Yale, Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920, was published. Dreier died on 29 March 1952.

For further information about the Société Anonyme and about Dreier's life, consult The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalog Raisonné (Yale University Press, 1984) edited by Robert L. Herbert, Eleanor S. Apter, and Elise K. Kenney; and The Société Anonyme's Brooklyn Exhibition: Katherine Dreier and Modernism in America (UMI Research Press, 1982) by Ruth L. Bohan.

From the guide to the Katherine S. Dreier papers / Société Anonyme archive, 1818-1952, 1920-1951, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

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http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6m90f0w
Ark ID:
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Subjects:

  • Community arts projects
  • Women--Connecticut--West Redding--Societies and clubs
  • Art--Collectors and collecting
  • Art--Societies, etc
  • Arts fund raising
  • Arts--United States--Societies, etc
  • Traveling exhibitions
  • Art, American
  • Art--American (?)--Reproductions
  • Community art projects--United States
  • Art, Modern--20th century
  • Mural painting and decoration--United States
  • Mural painting and decoration
  • Women--Societies and clubs

Occupations:

  • Women artists--United States
  • Women painters
  • Art patrons--United States

Places:

  • China (as recorded)
  • Connecticut--West Redding (as recorded)
  • Connecticut--West Redding (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • China (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • China (as recorded)