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collections > permanent collection > prints > ADOLF DEHN
 

Adolf Dehn
(American, 1895-1968)
Homage a Hieronymus Bosch, 1963
Lithograph, artist's proof, edition of 30, 25 3/4" x 19 3/4"

Gift of Virginia Dehn; Courtesy of Harmon-Meek Gallery (95.105)

Adolf Dehn’s reputation rests on his technical mastery of lithography.  Introduced to the medium through mentor Boardman Robinson and printer George Miller, Dehn made his first lithographs in 1920.  In Europe, the artist found an established tradition of fine art lithography as well as a new spirit of modernism, and while living in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, he experimented freely.  Setting aside the standard practice of building up a lithograph from light to dark tones, Dehn employed ink and crayon washes, erasing, scraping, scrubbing, and other unorthodox methods to achieve a wide variety of pictorial effects.  He continued to experiment throughout his career, and in later years, his lithographs took on a unique painterly quality.  The Museum’s Homage à Hieronymus Bosch is among the most spectacular of these works, and pays tribute to an early Netherlandish painter famed for his fantastic imagery.  Infused with Dehn’s personal blend of the sinister and the humorous, Homage à Hieronymus Bosch features a host of impish figures set against a brooding backdrop reminiscent of Abstract Expressionist painting.  In both style and the meaning, however, Homage defies easy categorization, and while it seems reasonable to assume that Dehn is thumbing his nose at the prevalence of abstract art, it is equally likely that the print reflects the artist’s own highly idiosyncratic creative process.

Born in Minnesota, Dehn studied at the Minneapolis School of Art and the Art Students League of New York.  For most of the 1920s, the artist lived and worked in Europe, where he concentrated on printmaking.  Back in the United States by 1929, Dehn during the following decade involved himself in the New York art world and participated in the Public Works of Art Project.  As the artist delved deeper into American Scene subjects, particularly landscapes, his popularity increased.  By the end of World War II, Dehn was well situated as a printmaker and commercial artist.  Abstract Expressionism, however, overshadowed his later work, and in the years prior to his death, the artist spent long periods of time overseas, traveling in Europe, the Middle East, Haiti, Mexico, and other locales.