Katherine Sophie Dreier
September 10, 1877 , Brooklyn, New York
March 29, 1952, Milford, Connecticut
Country of Origin/Citizenship
Kind of Artist/Cultural Worker
Artist, Patron, Gallery Director, Curator, Lecturer
Avant-Garde Movements Associated With
Date & Places of Overlap with Loy
New York 1920's
A prominent artist, lecturer, and art patron, Katherine Dreier was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1877 to German-immigrant parents. The Dreiers were a close family, interested in social and political reform. Katherine and her sisters, Mary Elisabeth Dreier and Margaret Dreier Robins, joined the suffrage movement in New York City (Beard et al. 12). An avid believer in women’s rights, she attended the sixth convention of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Stockholm and joined the New York German-American Committee of the Woman Suffrage Party. Dreier traveled to Argentina in 1918 and observed the country’s social reforms and political movements (Burke 268). Dreier ardently supported women throughout her artistic career.
After studying at the Brooklyn Art School from 1895-1897 and the Pratt Institute from 1900-1901, she worked with artist Walter Shirlaw for five years (Bohan 4). Dreier moved to London and wed Edward Trumbull in 1911 (Apter 381). The marriage was annulled after it was discovered Trumbull was already married. Dreier never married again and instead focused on her art and collaborations.
Katherine Dreier’s most famous collaboration was with Marcel Duchamp, who she met in 1916 at the Arsenberg Salon. The duo grew closer through the Society of Independent Artists, where Dreier was a founder/member of the board. Through the Society, Dreier came into contact with Mina Loy. Loy exhibited a painting entitled “Making Lampshades” in 1917 (Lein 618) and her work in the magazine The Blind Man corresponded with the first annual exhibition, which “helped spread interest in the new art among larger and more diverse audiences” (Bohan 28-29).
Dreier and Duchamp grew to be close friends, and with the help of fellow Dadaist, Man Ray, the trio created the Société Anonyme in April 1920. Dada was integral to the Société’s formation, and Dreier’s time in the Société and her close relationship with Duchamp changed her views on Dada. Dreier’s goal for the Société Anonyme was to bring Modernism and avant-garde art to the mainstream public. The Société hosted readings and presentations of visual art, including the 1926 Brooklyn Exhibition, which featured artists/exhibits from the Société (Bohan 38). Mina Loy “participated in a 1921 reading of Gertrude Stein’s poetry sponsored by the society” (Rosenbaum 23-49). Although the Société disbanded on April 30, 1950, Dreier’s commitment to art continued. While her dream of creating a modern art museum was never realized, she donated the Société Anonyme’s collection to Yale University. In this collection, there were “twenty-eight women…more than in any comparable collection of the time” (Herbert et al. 31). Remembered as an advocate for women, social reform, and art, Dreier died in Milford, Connecticut in 1952.
Apter, Eleanor S. “Regimes of Coincidence: Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Dada.” Women in Dada: Essays on Sex, Gender, and Identity. Ed. Naomi Sawelson-Gorse. MIT Press, 2001, pp. 362-413.
Beard, Mary Ritter, and Florence Woolston. The Woman Voter. The Woman Suffrage Party of New York City, vol. 7-8, pp. 9-51, 77, 1916, https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=zlc9AQAAMAAJ&rdid=book-zlc9AQAAMAAJ&rdot=1. Accessed 9 September 2018. Web.
Bohan, Ruth L. The Société Anonyme’s Brooklyn Exhibition: Katherine Dreier and Modernism in America. UM Research Press, 1980.
Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996.
Herbert, Robert L, Eleanor S. Apter and Elise K. Kenney, editors. The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné. Yale University Press, 1984.
Lein, Julie Gonnering. “Shades of Meaning: Mina Loy’s Poetics of Luminous Opacity.” Modernism/Modernity, vol. 18, no. 3, 2011, pp. 617-629.
Rosenbaum, Susan. “Brides Stripped Bare: Surrealism, the Large Glass, and U.S. Women’s Imaginary Museums.” Dada/Surrealism, vol. 21, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-35.
Photograph courtesy of Katherine S. Dreier Papers/Société Anonyme Archive, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven (KATHERINE DREIER WORKING ON A MURAL FOR SAINT PAUL’S SCHOOL, GA)