The papers of painter Dorothy Varian date from circa 1902 to 1984 and measure 2.3 linear feet. This collection documents Varian's life primarily through scattered biographical material; correspondence with family, friends, artists and art galleries; personal business records; a few writings; exhibition catalogs, news clippings, and other printed material; photographs of Varian, her friends, and artwork; and original sketches by Varian and fellow artist Peggy Bacon.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of painter Dorothy Varian date from circa 1902 to 1984 and measure 2.3 linear feet. This collection documents Varian's life primarily through scattered biographical material; correspondence with family, friends, artists and art galleries; personal business records; a few writings; exhibition catalogs, news clippings, and other printed material; photographs of Varian, her friends, including Peggy Bacon, Alex Brook, Bernard Karfiol, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and artwork; and original sketches by Varian and fellow artist Peggy Bacon.
Varian's earliest correspondence is with her mother and her cousin Jessie, detailing her life as an artist in Paris. Also found is extensive correspondence with with Peggy Bacon, Hermine Kleinert, Lenore G. Marshall, Waldo Pierce, Katherine Schmidt, Antoinette Schulte, and the Renoir family.
The collection is arranged as 7 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1920-1980 (5 folders; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1917-1981 (0.8 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, 1940s-1960s (3 folders; Box 1)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1931-1984 (9 folders; Box 1)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1916-1981 (0.5 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1902-1961 (13 folders; Boxes 2-3)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1912-1924 (11 folders; Boxes 2-3)
Biographical / Historical:
Dorothy Varian (1895-1985) was a painter in New York City, and Woodstock, NY. Varian was born in New York City on April 26, 1895; daughter of Eugene W. and Helen Estelle Varian. She dropped out of high school at 15 and entered Cooper Union where she graduated with honors. After Cooper Union she attended the Art Students League. While a student she inadvertently won first and second prize in a local art contest sponsored by movie producer, William Fox. She used the prize money to rent her first studio in Woodstock.
In 1920, her cousins Jessie and C. Vanderbilt Barton provided her the means to study in Paris.
Varian's first one-man show was held in 1922 at the Durand-Ruel Galleries in Paris. A close friend of Varian's during this time was Jean Renior, son of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Within the first year after she returned permanently to the United States, Varian had exhibitions at the Whitney Club, Whitney Galleries, and the Downtown Galleries. Edith Halpert, director of the Downtown Galleries became Varian's art dealer. Varian used the money from her work to buy a home in Woodstock which became her primary painting studio. The majority of her circle was formed during her time at the Art Students League and during her years in Paris. Varian also met many artists who were living and working alongside her in Woodstock. Throughout her life, she stayed in contact with many of these friends including Peggy Bacon, Alex Brook, Georgina Klitgaard, Frederick Dana Marsh, Lenore G. Marshall, and Waldo Pierce.
Varian worked primarily with watercolor and oil painting. Varian's work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Galleries, Carnegie International, Whitney Museum of American Art, Association of American Artists Gallery, Brooklyn Museum, and several universities across the country. Over the course of her career, Varian held fifteen solo exhibitions and received many awards including the Kuniyoshi Award in 1975. Varian died in 1985 at the age of 90.
Also found in this repository is an interview of Dorothy Varian conducted 1980 Dec. 6-7, by Avis Berman, for the Archives of American Art.
The collection was donated to the Archives of American Art in installments by Dorothy Varian in 1972, 1978, and 1981. An additonal installment was donated in 1986 by the Dorothy Varian estate, via Robert Plate.
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The Dorothy Varian papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.