Adolf Dehn belongs to a group of distinguished midcentury American artists who were eclipsed by abstract expressionism and the following movements in American art. His lithographs of the “roaring twenties” introduced a note of social satire into American printmaking. He was one of the most gifted and innovative printmakers of the American scene movement of the 1930s and one of the most significant American watercolorists.
Henry Adams, the Ruth Coulter Heede Professor of Art History in the College of Arts and Sciences, wrote a wide-ranging biography on Dehn, published by the University of Missouri Press on July 1.
The book explores how a once central figure can come to be forgotten. Noting that Dehn’s watercolor Spring in Central Park has been widely reproduced on calendars, postcards and other Metropolitan Museum of Art souvenirs, Adams asks why it is that some artists are celebrated as key figures while others, even those who created images that form an integral part of our visual culture, are relatively unknown.
With his account of the life of the prolific and influential Dehn, and a look at the circles of artists and writers in which Dehn moved, Adams helps to fill in what he calls the “secret or subterranean history of art.”