This important Katherine S. Dreier lithograph in the Museum’s permanent collection has a fascinating history within the landscape of twentieth-century American abstract art as well as American modern dance and the confluence of these forms.
Katherine S. Dreier was an American artist, collector, and founder of the Société Anonyme, an association established in 1920 with Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray to promote and support modern art and emerging artists. She was also a friend and patron of Jacob’s Pillow founder Ted Shawn and author of the 1933 monograph Shawn the Dancer.
While living in Paris in the early 1930s, Dreier was inspired both by performances of Beethoven’s Variations and the International Regatta to “translate these experiences into the realm of abstract art.” In 1934 she created 1 to 40 Variations, two groups of twenty lithographs with the same black image on a white ground. Each of the forty is entirely unique with pochoir hand coloring in blue, red, yellow, and umber. With the guidance of Marcel Duchamp, these portfolios were published in Paris in 1937 in a limited edition of eighty.
Inspired by one of Dreier’s 40 Variations, Ted Shawn choreographed A Dreier Lithograph in 1935 for six dancers to a score by Jess Meeker, the Pillow’s composer and musical director. A Dreier Lithograph was performed by Shawn’s Men Dancers at Jacob’s Pillow in the 1930s. It was also presented by the Carol Lynn Ballet at the Baltimore Museum of Art in January 1939 with an all-female cast. Lynn worked with Shawn as associate director of the Pillow from 1943 to 1960.
The Museum’s lithograph from Dreier’s 1 to 40 Variations series was a gift from Stanley Davis, a student at Jacob’s Pillow in the mid-1930s. In 2018, this lithograph was loaned to the Williams College Museum of Art for inclusion in the landmark exhibition Dance We Must: Treasures from Jacob’s Pillow, 1906-1940.