Dorothy
Dehner

(1901–1994)
Worked in New York, NY

Year created: 
1993
Fortissimo, Dorothy Dehner
Click images for larger view

19' 4" x 4' 6" x 4' 6"

fabricated aluminum painted black
Museum Purchase with funds provided by the Judith Rothschild Foundation, and Gift of the Dorothy Dehner Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. 2003.4

Although Dorothy Dehner is associated with the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists, she did not receive recognition for her achievements until the 1960s. During her early twenties, Dehner studied modern dance, theater, piano and wrote poetry. After a year of traveling independently in Europe and encountering Cubism and Constructivism, she enrolled in the Art Students League in New York where she concentrated in drawing. It was in New York that she met and married sculptor David Smith. This relationship overshadowed her own artistic development and it was not until after her separation from Smith that Dehner began to make abstract, totemic sculptures like Fortissimo.

Dehner's work draws on her experiences, travels and the different phases of her artistic development which continued into her nineties. Her sculptures use abstract and geometric symbols to communicate content that while private, has universal implications. According to the artist, she wanted "to express my feelings and thoughts, and I want to distill them so they will be pristine and clear and come back to me . . . with a new life they never had when inside me." Fortissimo, which means strong, was based on a small bronze Dehner made in the 1970s entitled Fist. Twenty years later at the age of ninety-two, Dehner used this design on a much larger scale with painted black aluminum to express the fortitude she demonstrated throughout her life.