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Arthur Dove (American, 1880–1946)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American painter. He worked as an illustrator in New York (1903–7). In 1907 he travelled to Paris and southern France, where under the influence of Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne he experimented with a style characterized by bright colours, curvilinear rhythms and non-naturalistic representation. On his return to the USA in 1909, his association with Alfred Stieglitz began. In 1910 he moved to a farm in Westport, CT. At this time he created some of the first distinctively non-representational works produced by an American, for example the Abstractions series (all priv. cols, see Morgan, pp. 100–103). The ten pastels that he showed in his first one-man exhibition at the 291 Gallery (1912) consisted of simplified, stylized motifs, the circular and saw-tooth forms of which interpenetrated and overlapped to create an organic Futurism. In them he expressed his belief that objects are not discrete, isolated entities, but active forces whose rhythms are in constant interplay with their environments.

By repeating and interlocking shapes in a compressed space and by using overall colour and textural similarities, Dove pictorially manifested his belief that the character of life was interpenetration and movement. In 1917 he ceased painting and produced only pastels. He did not resume painting until 1921 after separating from his wife and moving to a houseboat with the painter Helen Torr (1886–1967), whom he married in 1924 after the death of his first wife. In 1922 he bought a yawl on which they lived for the next five years, cruising Long Island Sound in the summer and mooring in Halesite, Long Island, in the winter. During this period he experimented with found materials, which he organized into delicate, whimsical and, at times, almost representational assemblages and collages, for example Grandmother (collage, 1925; New York, MOMA).

By 1927 the strain and damp of the boat forced Dove and Torr to spend winter on land and sail only in the summer. His painting, which had been sporadic during his years on the boat, began to accelerate. In works such as Fog Horns (1929; Colorado Springs, CO, F.A. Cent.) he developed a characteristic imagery of irregular, circular shapes swelling outward with haloes of modulated colour. This work rhapsodically celebrates the vital, generative forces of nature, which Dove presented as neither autonomous nor finite, but as part of a larger, embracing totality. He developed this style on his return to Geneva, NY, in 1933 to settle his family’s estate following the death of his remaining parent. He stayed there until 1938, when he decided after suffering a heart attack to relocate to an abandoned post office in Centerport, Long Island. His subsequent paintings, for example Willows (1940; New York, MOMA), continued to manifest the harmonious interdependence of objects in nature, but the vocabulary with which he expressed this harmony became more geometric and two-dimensional. The serenity and calmness of these works suggest a contemplative harmony and union between the forces of nature. From 1930 he was supported by regular payments from his patron, Duncan Phillips, in return for a first selection of works at Dove’s exhibitions.

Barbara Haskell
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press


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