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Dorothy Arnold Art Journals, 1938-2010

Identifier: 035

Collection Overview

This collection contains the art journals of Dorothy Arnold, documenting her life and travels. In 1938, Arnold began writing in journal, in 1958 began painting in journals. Spanning 62 years from 1938 to 2010, the journals document her trips to numerous countries across six continents.

The journals represent Arnold’s artistic evolution and they include her personal thoughts on art, her daily observations of life, and diary-like entries. Many of Arnold’s sketches, drawings, and paintings were early versions of much larger works she would create on canvas. Included in the journals are color classifications that Arnold assembled, showing her attention to studying and selecting colors.

Arnold’s art work is not limited to specific subjects and genres. From landscape to still life and from figurative images to abstractions, Arnold's wide-ranging subject matter presents how explorative and experimental she was in pursuing her work. While the inner world of emotions is shown in her abstract paintings, her use of colors are well presented in the landscapes and portraits.

Series 1: Art Diaries, 1938-2010 contains Dorothy Arnold's art journals. The journals from 1938-1957 are in diary format with no artwork. Arnold's 1958 journal is the first journal with artwork. Later journals, from 2000-2010, contain photographs of Arnold's artwork, exhibitions, family, and friends. There are also photographs that document her travels.

Series 2: Art Supplies and Video Tape contains 6 examples (4 brushes, 1 spatula, and 1 baster) of the kinds of brushes and art supplies that Arnold used. There is also a VHS, titled Dorothy Arnold Retrospective, from 1992 that chronciles her life and art.


  • 1938-2010


Access to Collection

This collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Use

According to the deed of gift signed September 2014, the donor's copyright to these materials have been assigned to the Cambridge Public Library. It is the responsibility of the researcher to understand and observe copyright law and to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyright. Questions concerning copyright and permission to publish should be directed to the Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections.


Dorothy (Quincy Warren) Arnold was born to Dorothy Thorndike and Bentley Warren in 1924. She grew up in Massachusetts, first in Brookline and later in Manchester-By-the-Sea. Arnold attended high school at the Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Mass., graduating in 1939. In 1943, Dorothy married David B. Arnold, Jr. (b. 1921) and had three children, Dorothy T. Arnold (b. 1945), and Virginia W. Arnold (b. 1947), and David b. Arnold, III (b. 1949). The Arnold Family lived in Concord, Mass. until Dorothy and David moved to Boston in 1994.

In 1956, Dorothy, known as “Doffie,” and her husband, David, began traveling extensively. David was the marketing director for Shipley Company in Newton, Mass. and he was responsible for visiting clients around the United States and the world. Doffie often accompanied her husband and began documenting their trips by writing, drawing, and painting in journals. After raising her family, she attended the Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston, graduating in 1980, and became an artist fulltime.

Arnold worked in landscape, abstraction, and figurative genres, and she specialized in ink and paper drawings, watercolor paintings, and oil paintings that were often large-scale. Arnold used the impasto technique and incorporated found objects such as glass, beads, and paper into her paintings.[1] Whitney Museum Curator Elizabeth Sussman describes Arnold’s work as a dialogue “between image and process, between drawing and painting, between abstraction and figuration.”[2] According to Arnold, “The rhythms of nature have always influenced not only what I paint but how I paint. Be it sky, clouds, trees, or water, my hand and my body must become a part of the rhythm.”[3] Arnold wanted to create cooperative and sustainable housing for serious artists and developed the Bent Street Artists Association, seven units from a run-down machinery storage facility at 243 Bent Street (the corner of Bent Street and Fifth Street) in East Cambridge, Mass. Arnold had an open door policy at her studio and it became her “clubhouse,” according to her son, David B. Arnold, III.

She was active in the Cambridge community and invited students from across the city to her studio. Arnold was the inspiration behind the Cambridge Creativity Commons, a Cambridge-based organization founded in 2011 bridging the gap between arts and science to offer STEAM programs to Cambridge students, and her studio was the organization’s home base for several years. The 2014 Putnum Avenue Upper School Creative Journaling Project featured student-made art journals based on Arnold’s journal archive. In addition to working with aspiring young artists in her studio, Arnold supported the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Lyric Opera, and gun control efforts.

Arnold’s work has been exhibited in solo and group shows in galleries across the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa, and is featured in many corporate and museum collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the DeCordova Museum, the First National Bank of Boston, the Copley Society, WGBH, and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Arnold has received numerous awards, including a Massachusetts Artist Fellowship in 1990. In 2002, a retrospective of Arnold’s work began in Germany, traveled to Russia and Italy, ended in the United States. In 2007, Arnold’s landscape, “Lime Rocks,” was featured in a temporary exhibit at the U.S. embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon as part of the Art in Embassies Program.[4]

By 2010, two major changes happened in Arnold’s life. She stopped painting because of advancing dementia. And, the once industrial wasteland of the East Cambridge neighborhood where the Bent Street Artists Association is located began to be developed for commercial, government, and private use. The owners of the Association began to stray from the serious artist criteria. The provision was dropped as a requirement around 2011 and artists no longer began to occupy the space. As Arnold’s life changed and she could no longer maintain her studio, her family began the Doffie Project in 2013 as a way to honor her legacy, distribute her artwork at affordable prices, and raise money for charities. Eighty percent of the profit from each sale went to the buyer’s choice of organization; 20% financed administrative costs. Over two years, the Doffie Project raised $225,000 for a variety of charities, including the YMCA, the Charles River Conservancy, and the Home for Little Wanderers. Arnold’s family sold the Bent Street studio in 2014.[5] According to her son, David Arnold III, the studio was her greatest loss with the onset of dementia.

Works Cited:

[1] Dorothy Arnold | deCordova. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from

[2] Department of State - Art in Embassies. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from

[3] Dorothy Arnold | deCordova. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from

[4] Department of State - Art in Embassies. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from

[5] Archetto, DeAnna, “Bidding Adieu to Doffie’s studio in Cambridge,” Cambridge Chronicle, 27 November 2013.


9.9 Linear Feet

11 Cubic Feet

15 boxes (Oversize)

160 Items

Language of Materials


Organization of Collection

Approximately 160 items grouped chronologically.

Series 1: Art Diaries, 1938-2010

Series 2: Art Supplies and Video Tape

Custodial History

This collection was donated by David B. Arnold, III in 2014.

Processing Information

Processed by JiYoung Lee under the supervision of Alyssa Pacy in October and November 2016.



Dorothy Arnold Art Journals, 1938-2010
Jiyoung Lee under the supervision of Alyssa Pacy
October 21, 2016
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway
Cambridge MA 02138 USA