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The Art Story Homepage Artists Katherine Dreier
Katherine Dreier Photo

Katherine Dreier

American Artist, Collector, and Writer

Movements and Styles: Post-Impressionism, Abstract Art

Born: September 10, 1877 - Brooklyn, New York

Died: March 29, 1952 - Milford, Connecticut

Katherine Dreier Timeline

"[America] has developed along the material rather than the immaterial, the concrete rather than the divine."

Katherine Dreier Signature

Summary

The American artist and collector Katherine Dreier championed modern, avant-garde art in the United States starting in the 1920s when such art was regularly decried as abject, inscrutable, a hoax. While academically trained as a painter, Dreier was one of the first Americans to embrace the modern art that was being made in Europe by the likes of the Post-Impressionists, German Expressionists, and Constructivists. Deeply influenced by the spiritual and theosophical writings of Wassily Kandinsky, Dreier proselytized the spiritual rejuvenation offered by these approaches to art. Along with the Dadaists Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, Dreier co-founded the Société Anonyme, a radical group of artists that sought to disseminate a diverse art to the masses through exhibitions and lectures. Through her own paintings as well as her collecting habits, Dreier was an important force in popularizing modernism in the United States.

Key Ideas

As a painter, Dreier synthesized the lessons of van Gogh and Kandinsky to create a highly personalized art that aimed to reflect the inner spirit. Moving between representational and abstract styles, Dreier combined color and form in bold ways for expressive ends.
A believer of Theosophy, a religion built on mystical and occult philosophies that flourished at the turn of the 20th century, Dreier had faith in the power of art to prod humanity's evolution to a higher spiritual awareness. Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky's own writings on the spirituality of art, Dreier incorporated the symbolic shapes and colors laid out by Kandinsky to convey the cosmic and transcendental meaning of her subjects.
While Dreier painted throughout her life, her mission to collect modern art and educate the larger American public on its significance took up most of her energies. Through the Société Anonyme, Dreier curated numerous exhibitions and delivered countless lectures to introduce and demystify the new, avant-garde painting and sculpture. She was adamant that it was through living with the art and experiencing it that one could come to understand and appreciate it.
Katherine Dreier Photo

Katherine Sophie Dreier was born into a fairly wealthy family in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents emigrated from Bremen, Germany in the 1850s during one of the largest flows of German immigration to the USA, and soon established a comfortable environment for themselves and five children. Theodor, Dreier's father, earned a substantial salary in an iron importing business. It is clear from several accounts that the Dreier home was a warm and progressive one and that Dreier and her siblings enjoyed the same opportunities independently of their gender and were also encouraged to understand and participate in social endeavors from an early age. Indeed, throughout their life, and following the example of their mother, Dorothea, all of Dreier's siblings and especially her three sisters, would exhibit an active commitment to social reform. Her sisters Mary and Margaret made significant contributions to the suffrage and labor movements, holding leadership positions in the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) among other organizations. While Katherine was to follow in the steps of her older sister Dorothea, a Post-Impressionist painter, and become an artist, she herself engaged in social work throughout her life. Her approach to art and, later, collecting also reflected her commitment to democratic ideals.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Katherine Dreier
Interactive chart with Katherine Dreier's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Show influences

Artists

Gustaf Britsch
Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky
Vincent van GoghVincent van Gogh

Personal Contacts

Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Man RayMan Ray
Hilla Rebay
Sheldon Cheney

Movements

Post-ImpressionismPost-Impressionism
German ExpressionismGerman Expressionism
ConstructivismConstructivism
Influences on Artist
Influences on Artist
Katherine Dreier
Katherine Dreier
Years Worked: 1895 - 1952
Influenced by Artist
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Alexander ArchipenkoAlexander Archipenko
Kurt SchwittersKurt Schwitters

Personal Contacts

Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Piet MondrianPiet Mondrian
László Moholy-NagyLászló Moholy-Nagy

Movements

German ExpressionismGerman Expressionism
Abstract ArtAbstract Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Lilly Markaki

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Lilly Markaki
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
First published on 22 Feb 2018. Updated and modified regularly. Information
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