The Library of Congress has acquired an exceptional collection of American Abstract Expressionist prints from the 1940s to 1960s, now available through the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division.
The Charles Randall Dean Collection of 125 prints includes exquisite and often rare impressions by such artists as James Budd Dixon, Sonia Gechtoff, Philip Guston, Grace Hartigan, James Kelly, Lee Krasner, Frank Lobdell and Hedda Sterne.
Dean began acquiring the prints in 1987. When possible, Dean sought out and befriended the artists themselves, learning their stories directly. The highly regarded collection, acquired by the Library through a gift/purchase, includes Dean’s records, receipts, letters and period ephemera, and rare journals and exhibition catalogs that enhance the research value of the individual prints.
“As a print collector, Charles assembled his collection thoughtfully and with great discernment, carefully elucidating the contexts in which the individual artworks were created,” said Jeremy Adamson, the Library’s director of Collections and Services. “He deliberately acquired examples of works by students and their teachers, and by artists working together in a shared setting, school or studio. As a result, the stylistic relationships between individual works are sensitively documented, allowing us to see interrelated patterns of subtle influences and new directions.”
The works in the Dean Collection complement the Library’s already-extensive holdings of American artist prints. The Library had actively acquired Abstract Expressionist prints when they were first created, including outstanding examples by Edmond Casarella, Worden Day, Boris Margo, George Miyasaki and Adja Yunkers. The Dean Collection, notably strong in works by women and California artists active in the movement, fills important gaps in the Library’s holdings from this period.
“The combined collections provide the opportunity to expand the understanding of Abstract Expressionism as a creative and intellectual force in the United States,” said Katherine Blood, curator of fine prints in the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library. “These visual materials can also be studied at the Library in the context of other collections documenting jazz, literature and poetry from the same era.”
The Dean Collection has been featured in the October 2000 issue of Architectural Digest Magazine and the March 2009 issue of Art in America. Selections from the collection have been exhibited at the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in East Hampton, N.Y., and at the International Print Center in New York City (www.ipcny.org/exhib/exhib_ex/exhib_ex_dean.htm).
Dean was born in Augusta, Ga., spent his childhood years in Knoxville, Tenn., and graduated with a major in philosophy from the University of Tennessee. For the past 22 years he has worked in the restaurant of the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan as a maître d’ and captain. Dean has also co-edited “Of Leaf and Flower” (Persea Books, 2001), an anthology of poems and stories for gardeners.