The Katherine S. Dreier Bequest

Katherine S. Dreier and Marcel Duchamp in the Yale University Art Gallery at the exhibition Duchamp

Katherine S. Dreier and Marcel Duchamp in the Yale University Art Gallery at the exhibition Duchamp, Duchamp-Villon, Villon, February–March 1945. Photo © Katherine S. Dreier Papers/Société Anonyme Archive. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Katherine S. Dreier in the Société Anonyme Collection exhibition

Katherine S. Dreier in the Société Anonyme Collection exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery, 1942. Photo © Katherine S. Dreier Papers/Société Anonyme Archive. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Katherine S. Dreier (1877–1952), a patron of the arts, founded the Société Anonyme with Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) and Man Ray (1890–1976) in 1920. Although it never had a permanent exhibition space, the Société Anonyme was the first collection in the United States to be called a “Museum of Modern Art.” Under Dreier’s leadership, the organization supported numerous exhibitions, namely the 1926 International Exhibition of Modern Art at the Brooklyn Museum, in addition to concerts, lectures, and publications, during its thirty-year history. Vasily Kandinsky (1866–1944), an artist whose evolution to abstraction would help articulate the vision of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection, served in absentia as the Société Anonyme’s first vice-president from 1923 until his death.

Dreier and Hilla Rebay (1890–1967), Solomon Guggenheim’s art adviser and an artist in her own right, not only shared similar sympathies in terms of artists, but also were both building significant collections of modern art. Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, independent of one another, encouraged the two pioneering women to meet in 1930, and it was only natural that they would continue to cross paths. Kandinsky’s death in December 1944 brought Dreier and Rebay back into close contact and resulted in important Kandinsky purchases from Dreier’s collection for the Guggenheim Foundation two years later. Finally, in 1953, the foundation received a small but important bequest from Dreier via her executor, Duchamp, a testament to the mutual respect and admiration as proponents for the cause of modern art, which existed between herself and the foundation. Most important among the 28 works donated by the estate were Constantin Brancusi’s Little French Girl (1914–18), a bronze by Alexander Archipenko (1919), a standing mobile by Alexander Calder (1935), an untitled Juan Gris still life (1916), and three collages dating from 1919 to 1921 by the German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters.


Browse works form The Katherine S. Dreier Bequest in the Collection Online.
 

Suggested Reading

Gross, Jennifer R. and Bohan, Ruth L. The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006

 

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Constantin Brancusi, Muse, 1912

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