I have a prized copy of "What am I doing here?" that was handed down from my grandmother. When younger, my sister and I thought it was quite hilarious that grandmother had something so "naughty" in her bookcase. As I got older I noticed how timeless his sentiments were. Now I love to keep it on the coffee table and watch friends reactions when they browse through it, as they ask themselves "what am I doing here?"

Posted by PF Roeper at February 21, 2005 07:33 PM

I, too, love Abner Dean. He's got a wonderful line and his insight about people, society and the mind are as relevant as ever. Too bad he's not in print anymore.

Posted by Dan at April 11, 2005 10:04 PM

At my first trip to Paris in 1959 I visited this wonderful bookshop 'Shakespeare and Co' near Notre Dame Cathedral and discovered a Signet Pocket Book Edition of 'What am I doing here ?' This was such a shock as this little book seemed to express my feelings so acurately, that I bought the five available copies which I distributed to my friends once back home in Antwerp. I'm glad that at last I found a trace of this wonderful artist that seemed lost completely.

Posted by Jan Baes at April 21, 2005 07:23 AM

A kid born in 1956, I discovered Abner Dean late. Some of the drawings in his books do sink into the fold between pages, even taking the central image of the cartoon down with them. Dean's best work should be reprinted in a better format, although the market would be pretty limited unless we spread the word far and wide. As Karenkat's comments illustrate, Dean has great appeal for some of us, and not much others. Dean’s best drawings appeal to those who enjoy a stimulating ponder as much as a quick chuckle. There will only be enough of a market for a reprint if everyone who might be interested learns about it and learns why they should be interested. I would love to display a few Dean drawings on my own website, but since I teach, among other things, copyright, I would want to contact the holders of the rights first.

Posted by Bill Freese at May 5, 2005 10:09 AM

I came across Abner Dean in 1981 at a garage sale in Ann Arbor MI. I was going through a hard time... Boyfriend leaves gives me up for a much older married woman.. Heartbreak!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Alcholism.. Dean's cartoon's made me laugh.. Comfort of sorts... helped me gain back sense of humor?? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Kristina Kofler at May 14, 2005 02:40 PM

In case anyone doesnt think the world is getting smaller-- I'm the boyfriend Kris writes about above I'm sorry Kris. I cotinue to collect Dean - I just bought some aetna advertisements and have picked up a few things from his Dartmouth days working as Aber Epstein. He over lapped with Dr Seuss working on the Dartmouth Jack o'lantern. It puzzles me that he rose to the the top in terms of commericial success and artistic quality and content within a few years of graduating from Dartmouth, and then drifted off into obscurity. Perhaps he was blacklisted or had a substance abuse probem?

Posted by Don Zirulnik at July 6, 2005 03:11 AM

I own an original pen and ink drawing by Abner Dean entitled "Experience" which is framed in a Kulicke frame. What would be the best way to assess its value? How might I go about finding the appropriate market for this work and selling it? Thank you.

Posted by cynthia at June 7, 2006 12:02 PM

Actually, I might be interested. Why don't you email me with more info?

Posted by James Holland at June 11, 2006 07:59 PM

I am working on a history of New Yorker artists. I can't find any original Abner Dean art. Does anyone know of original color drawings by Abner Dean? Please email me with any info. Thanks

Posted by B. Block at July 10, 2006 09:10 PM

I was so pleased to find this site! I just mentioned Abner Dean in my blog about caring for my elderly mother and wanted to share our experience with What Am I Doing Here? with you.

Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at July 22, 2006 06:39 AM

Abner Dean had a rare insight into the natural substance of our human existence. I was particularly attracted to one of his cartoons entitled, "I made this". With naked humanity in lock-step parade like burdened humanity, the main character was on a high spot of ground displaying a pole with a bunch of randomly placed boards nailed to it. So symbolic! I'd love a print of it.

Davis Goss

"The Science of Building Harmonious Life Experiences"

Posted by Davis Goss at January 7, 2007 11:35 AM

I am in love with Dean's work! I found a book that belonged to my grandfather in my garage a few years ago and I am totally hung up. I am sad that all of his work is out of print, I have had a great deal of luck finding his work on
If you really enjoy his work I highly recomend looking for his book "Abner Dean's Naked People" it is a collection released in 1963, featuring work from a number of his books and all the images are big and do not fall into the crease.
I am still in awe of the fact that so few people have ever heard of him.

Posted by e at February 22, 2007 05:58 PM

As a 20-year-old college student in 1981, I was fond of some of the relics of late-1940s American culture: old radios, old cars, old neon signs, later Art Deco, the earliest experimental jazz, etc. That period is now commonly referred to as "a simpler, more innocent time." (It was, huh? Right after the horrors of World War II? Yeah, sure!) I used to walk down the old working-class streets of Binghamton, NY and try to imagine what life had been like in those days.
But after I discovered What Am I Doing Here? in a thrift store, and after seeing the movie "True Confessions" (1981), it began to dawn on me that underneath all those cultural trappings, the late-'40s period had a dark, ominous undertone. America was beginning its descent into the Cold War era of enforced conformity, with advertisers promoting a blond, blue-eyed, spotlessly clean "normalcy," and many people secretly felt empty and confused and cynical about trying to fit in to all that. Some of those feelings would later erupt in Ginsberg's "America" and other "subversive" works of the '50s-- but Dean had the guts to bring it all right out in the open in 1947. I wonder how many people picked up his book that year and said to themselves (as I did 34 years later), "Damn, it's not just me! Here's somebody else who sees all this, too!" (Let's hope some people of the WWII generation will discover this site and post their stories here.) Some of Dean's portrayals of women-- as scheming, manipulative heartbreakers-- may now seem like sexist caricatures, but I think they also reflect the roles that a lot of women back then (and now?) felt forced to play in order to survive in a society where the deck was stacked against them. And he certainly didn't take it easy on men either. Thanks, Abner, for taking brutal honesty and making it accessible and entertaining.

Posted by urgeking at March 30, 2007 12:23 AM

I was given a marvelous litho (?) years ago that is signed "Abner J. Epstein" (in pencil). It's a dark and hypnotic piece featuring two individuals--a intensely spooky old woman in foreground--carrying a coffin through what appears to be a tunnel. Can anyone give me information on this work? As we all know, Dean was born Epstein and adopted his nom de plume at an early point in his career.

Many thanks.

Posted by Jim Bosha at July 5, 2007 06:45 PM

Hello,Ihave a small plate approx.4" dia. of an Abner Dean cartoon The figure is standing against a rock looking at a bird, w/caption, I,d know you anywhere. Any idea of value???? 7.22.07

Posted by joe at July 22, 2007 10:16 PM

I have two originals by Abner Dean "Arrested Development" & "Accumilated Virtue" I am looking for an appraiser to find out it's value? Any suggestions for me?

Posted by Cheryle Gail at October 4, 2007 03:45 PM

Have a signed abner. It has a bird flying over water.. that's it. no caption. any one know what this is? want to sell

Posted by trish at January 26, 2008 10:46 PM

I found a copy of Abner Dean's Naked People in a used book store (now gone) in St. Paul in the mid-sixties, flipped through it and immediately bought it -- I didn't even finish browsing the store. At the time, without the Internet, I couldn't find any additional info about him. Like most things, it sort of faded from my memory until today, when a friend asked me about browsing used book stores and one thought led to another. If he got a book published in hard-cover, I knew there had to be some fans out there somewhere! Thanks!

Posted by Jeff in Minneapolis at October 21, 2009 10:54 AM

I'm looking to buy any original art by abner dean - also any letters to/from him. THANKS. send email to or call 415-509-7530

Posted by don zirulnik at September 13, 2011 11:37 AM