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Artists Arthur Dove

Arthur Dove

American Painter

Movement: American Modernist Painting

Born: August 2, 1880 - Canandaigua, New York

Died: November 23, 1946 - Long Island, New York

Quotes

"The forms should tell their own story."
Arthur Dove
"I would like to make something that is real in itself that does not remind anyone of any other things, and that does not have to be explained like the letter A, for instance."
Arthur Dove
"I can claim no background except perhaps the woods, running streams, hunting, fishing, camping, the sky."
Arthur Dove
"We cannot express the light in nature because we have not the sun. We can only express the light we have in ourselves."
Arthur Dove
"What constitutes American painting?... things may be in America, but it's what is in the artist that counts. What do we call 'American' outside of painting? Inventiveness, restlessness, speed, change.."
Arthur Dove
"How do you feel about a person when you're talking over the phone? If you know them, or if you don't know them, do you get something, do you put that into words of your own, from what they say, or from what you think? Or if it were music over the radio, have you ever tried to think how it would look?"
Arthur Dove

"I look at nature, I see myself. Paintings are mirrors, so is nature."

Synopsis

America in the 1910s and 1920s experienced rapid industrialization and urban growth. Arthur Dove sought refuge from the quickened pace of historical change by translating nature into an abstract and distinctly modern vocabulary of color, shape, and line. This retreat into the slow, sustained rhythms of the natural world, its annual renewal, and its visual, spiritual, and auditory sensations define his career. Dove, who was an ardent amateur musician, was also deeply inspired by the parallels between the visual arts and music, and created many works inspired by the popular songs he listened to on the radio. Dove can be seen, simultaneously, as an heir to nineteenth-century Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, as well as an influence on such later Abstract Expressionists as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner.

Key Ideas

In the age of machines and materialism, Dove's work instead concentrated on nature as an something to experience, rather than a commodity to own. He stressed the interconnection of humans and the environment, and painted emotionally charged and brilliantly colored scenes of natural wonder.
Dove was attracted to the timelessness of nature, which he interpreted into a modern abstract vocabulary of color, shape, line, and scale. Simultaneously, Dove was both the heir to nineteenth-century American landscape painting, and the practitioner of new forms of modern painting.
Despite the evident influence of French Modernism, Dove's artwork is firmly located within cultural and artistic traditions of reverence for the American land, considering nature as the nation's living past.
Dove was a central member of Alfred Stieglitz's group who were the first moderns in American art. The collective broke away from representational and narrative art, created works that were innovative and often abstract in terms of their style, color, composition, and forms.
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Most Important Art

Nature Symbolized No, 2 (1911)
Rather than try faithfully reproducing elements of nature, Dove stove as a painter to capture its spiritual aspects, bringing attention to those movements and lifecycles beyond the human eye. The heart of Dove's artistic philosophy was the articulation of "essences" that would transmit this sense of the spiritual in nature. These "essences" were biomorphic shapes that represented different kinds of energy or organic evolution, suggesting an inner principle of inherent reality. In this work, curvilinear forms and shades of green relate a sense of growth and also, movements in nature, evoking the sensation of greenery being rustled by the wind. His early abstractions, especially the large pastel paintings on linen such as this work, are part of his effort to capture these transitory effects.
Large pastel paintings on linen - The Art Institute of Chicago
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Biography

Childhood

Arthur Dove was born on August 2, 1880, in Canandaigua, New York, to parents of English descent; his father, a successful businessman, was a building contractor and brick manufacturer. As a child, Dove became friends with a neighbor, naturalist Newton Weatherby, who took him along on hunting, fishing, and camping excursions and encouraged Dove's lifelong fascination with nature. Weatherby was also an amateur artist who gave assorted scraps of canvas to Dove to paint on.

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Early Training

Arthur Dove Biography

At his father's insistence, Dove matriculated at Cornell University as a prelaw student. He supplemented his tiresome law classes by enrolling in elective art classes. While at Cornell he was awarded the honor of illustrating the college's yearbook. Dove reached a compromise with his father by becoming a graphic illustrator, which was a lucrative profession. The artist relocated to New York City in 1903 and began his career as a freelance illustrator, which soon proved too conventional for his tastes. Within a few years, at the urging of fellow-illustrators John Sloan and George Luks, both founding members of the Ashcan School, Dove tried his hand at painting. In 1908, Dove and his first wife Florence sailed abroad for a 15-month sojourn, primarily painting in the south of France where he honed his craft. In Paris, Dove met American painters Alfred Maurer and Max Weber, also early modernists, and was exposed to the artistic innovations of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Cézanne. Dove's style at that time was Impressionistic, but he, as well as Maurer, strove to dilute Impressionism into larger areas of pure unsaturated color in the manner of the Fauvists.

In 1910, Dove was introduced to gallery-owner, photographer, and leading exponent of the avant-garde Alfred Stieglitz, and quickly became a member of Stieglitz's stable of modern American artists at his gallery known as "291". Of Stieglitz, Dove remarked he was "one who has done the most for art in America." From 1905 to 1917, the gallery was the center of New York modernists, a community of like-minded artists and critics looking to invigorate American art and culture. Subsequent galleries owned by Stieglitz followed after 291 and Dove exhibited at these as well. By 1910, Dove abandoned any suggestion of narrative and discarded any semblance of figure, setting, or even titles for his works. He did so because he thought "the forms should tell their own story." Dove sought to project the essence of objects by emphasizing structure and ridding the composition of all superfluous detail; he replaced bulk with pattern, heightened and modified color, and simplified contours. In 1912, he painted some of the initial non-representational works produced by an American with his Abstractions series. These ten pastels that he showed in his first one-man exhibition at 291 were simplified, stylized motifs, with signature circular and saw-tooth forms which interpenetrated and overlapped. Dove believed that objects including natural objects were not independent, isolated things, but rather, living forces. Georgia O'Keeffe once remarked that, "Dove is the only American painter who is of the earth.."

Mature Period

As the decades progressed, Dove was further influenced by Cubism, the expressionist work of Wassily Kandinsky, and importantly, the writings of French Philosopher Henri Bergson, who emphasized a mystical, rather than an analytic, approach to life and the world. In 1917, Dove ceased painting with oils and produced only pastels. He did not resume painting until 1921 after separating from his first wife, Florence, and moving to a houseboat with the painter Helen Torr (nicknamed Reds), whom he married in 1924 after the death of his first wife. Tragically, he was denied visitation to his son for many years.

During the 1920s, Dove also experimented with found materials, which he organized into innovative, humorous and, at times, almost representational assemblages and collages. Using these techniques and materials, he produced approximately 30 works between 1924 and 1930. Dove also experimented with new paint materials, such as hand-mixed pigment over a wax emulsion. He was interested in synesthesia, a psychological condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color, a belief present in French Symbolist circles. Struggling financially, from 1930 onwards, he was supported by regular payments from Duncan Phillips - the founder of The Phillips Collection -- in return for a first selection of works at Dove's exhibitions. The two men -- artist and patron -- met only once. The Phillips Collection still holds the majority of Dove's work.

Late Years and Death

Arthur Dove Photo

In his later works, Arthur Dove's tendency to observe his immediate surroundings and integrate their abstracted forms into his art prompted him to layer undulating forms and to work with a reduced palette, creating a sensuous, brushy surface. At this time, he and Reds lived on a houseboat bringing them in direct contact with power and beauty of nature. In some of his work of the 1940s, Dove drew upon the local landmarks and the turbulent coastline of his small town on Long Island, but then, came full circle to re-embrace nature and the abstract. Dove suffered a heart attack in 1939, which rendered him an invalid and compromised his ability to create. After his second heart attack and debilitating kidney disease, Reds - herself an artist - had to guide the brush for Dove when he was painting. The artist died in 1946. Reds never painted again after Dove's death; she died in 1967. In 1979, The Museum of Modern Art hung their work together for the first time. During the years between 1997 and 1998, the exhibition Arthur Dove: A Retrospective - the first comprehensive survey to consider his career since the 1970s - traveled nationally. In 2000, the Arthur Dove-HelenTorr Cottage, a tiny, one-room structure on Long Island, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Legacy

Dove's death in 1946 and life's work were strongly overshadowed by the advent of Abstract Expressionism. Clement Greenberg, leading critic and fierce proponent of Jackson Pollock and the others, vehemently disliked the work of the Stieglitz Circle artists (with the exclusion of John Marin). In contrast to the post-1945 abstractionists, Dove was considered provincial and a minor talent. Regardless, the influence and fame of Dove, Georgia O'Keffee, John Marin, and others from the Stieglitz Circle continues to grow. Dove has been credited with indirectly influencing the first generation Abstract Expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Mark Rothko, who placed similar emphasis on the artist's subjective experience of his surroundings and on the intrinsic emotional power of color and line. His attraction to the natural world remains a constant in American art.


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Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Arthur Dove
Interactive chart with Arthur Dove's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Artists

Piet Mondrian
Henri Matisse
Alfred Maurer
Max Weber

Friends

Georgia O'Keeffe
Alfred Stieglitz

Movements

Fauvism
Modernism and Modern Art
Cubism
Arthur Dove
Arthur Dove
Years Worked: 1880 - 1946

Artists

Joseph Cornell
Marsden Hartley
Jackson Pollock
Mark Rothko

Friends

Alfred Stieglitz
Georgia O'Keeffe

Movements

Abstract Expressionism

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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Useful Resources on Arthur Dove

Books
Websites
Articles
Videos
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
paintings
Arthur Dove: A Retrospective

By Debra Bricker Balken, William C. Agee, Elizabeth Hutton Turner

Arthur Dove: Watercolors and Pastels

By Melanie Kirschner

Dove/O'Keeffe: Circles of Influence

By Debra Bricker Balken

In the American Grain: Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Alfred Stieglitz: The Stieglitz Circle at the Phillips Collection

By Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Georgia O'Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, Arthur Dove

Their Inspiring Relationship

By Judith H. Dobrzynski
The Wall Street Journal
July 8, 2009

Painting at a Crossroads

By Christopher Knight
The Los Angeles Times
August 5, 1998

Arthur Dove Finally Takes Wing

By Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
The Los Angeles Times
August 2, 1998

A Catalogue Raisonné for Arthur Dove

By Hilton Kramer
The New Criterion
February 1985

Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
A tendency among New York painters of the late 1940s and '50s, all of whom were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes. The movement embraced the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the postwar mood of anxiety and trauma.
ArtStory: Abstract Expressionism
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko was an Abstract Expressionist painter whose early interest in mythic landscapes gave way to mature works featuring large, hovering blocks of color on colored grounds.
ArtStory: Mark Rothko
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock was the most well-known Abstract Expressionist and the key example of Action Painting. His work ranges from Jungian scenes of primitive rites to the purely abstract "drip paintings" of his later career.
ArtStory: Jackson Pollock
Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner was an American abstract painter and a prominent first-generation Abstract Expressionist. A student of Hans Hofmann's, and a pioneer in the all-over technique of painting that later influenced Color Field artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and her husband, Jackson Pollock.
ArtStory: Lee Krasner
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer who published the pioneering journal Camera Work. His gallery 291 was a locus for modern artists in America.
ArtStory: Alfred Stieglitz
John Sloan
John Sloan
John Sloan
John Sloan was a twentieth-century American realist painter and teacher. He was a founding member of The Eight and the Ashcan School of realist painting. Beginning in 1914, Sloan was also an influential art teacher at The Art Students League of New York.
John Sloan
George Luks
George Luks
George Luks
George Luks was an American realist painter whose scenes of daily life are prime examples of the Ashcan School. Born in Pennsylvania to Central European immigrants, he originally worked in vaudeville before becoming a painter. While working as an illustrator he met William Glackens and the two worked together on developing the Ashcan style of art.
George Luks
Ashcan School
Ashcan School
Ashcan School
Founded at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Ashcan School was a loose congregation of American Realist artists that challenged the dominant style of Impressionism in favor of a more naturalistic and socially-engaged approach to painting. Initiated by Robert Henri in Philadelphia, the school later moved to New York, where its central members included George Bellows, George Luks, William Glackens, Edward Hopper, Joan Sloan, and Everett Shinn. Although the group's members incorporated a range of styles, they shared a common interest in depicting contemporary society through both the squalor and vitality of the burgeoning metropolis.
ArtStory: Ashcan School
Alfred Maurer
Alfred Maurer
Alfred Maurer
Alfred Henry Maurer was an American painter and important modernist in the early twentieth century. Originally a Realist, Maurer shifted to Cubist and Fauvist painting, and his work was included in the 1913 Armory Show in New York. Maurer was also one of the leading avant-garde American artists in the days before World War I.
Alfred Maurer
Max Weber
Max Weber
Max Weber
Max Weber was an early twentieth century Polish-American painter. Taught in the tradition of the French modernists, such as Matisse, Rousseau and Picasso, Weber became a fairly well-known Cubist painter in pre-WWII America, arguably introducing the painterly style to the U.S. Weber's works were among the first acquisitions made by MoMA in 1929, and he was the subject of the museum's very first solo exhibition by an American artist.
Max Weber
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French painter and sculptor who helped forge modern art. From his early Fauvist works to his late cutouts, he emphasized expansive fields of color, the expressive potential of gesture, and the sensuality inherent in art-making.
ArtStory: Henri Matisse
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Picasso dominated European painting in the first half of the last century, and remains perhaps the century's most important, prolifically inventive, and versatile artist. Alongside Georges Braque, he pioneered Cubism. He also made significant contributions to Surrealist painting and media such as collage, welded sculpture, and ceramics.
ArtStory: Pablo Picasso
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was an influential French Post-Impressionist painter whose depictions of the natural world, based on internal geometric planes, paved the way for Cubism and later modern art movements.
ArtStory: Paul Cézanne
Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism
A movement in painting that first surfaced in France in the 1860s, it sought new ways to describe effects of light and movement, often using rich colors. The Impressionists were drawn to modern life and often painted the city, but they also captured landscapes and scenes of middle-class leisure-taking in the suburbs.
ArtStory: Impressionism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism was an early twentieth-century art movement founded by Henri Matisse and André Derain. Labeled as "wild beasts", Fauve artists favored vibrant colors and winding gestural strokes across the canvas.
ArtStory: Fauvism
Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe was an American painter best known for her depictions of flowers, animal skulls, landscapes, and still lifes. Married to photographer Alfred Stieglitz, she was an important member of the "Stieglitz circle" and early American modernism.
ArtStory: Georgia O'Keeffe
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
ArtStory: Cubism
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
A member of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter, and later a teacher at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky is best known for his pioneering breakthrough into expressive abstraction in 1913. His work prefigures that of the American Abstract Expressionists.
ArtStory: Wassily Kandinsky
Henri Bergson
Henri Bergson
Henri Bergson
Henri Bergson was a twentieth-century French philosopher. Bergson was a staunch champion of social philosophers such as Darwin and William James. He was also a practitioner of Process philosophy, which asserts that we live in an unpredictable world undergoing contant change.
Henri Bergson
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism is an artistic and literary movement that first emerged in France in the 1880s. In the visual arts it is often considered part of Post-Impressionism. It is characterized by an emphasis on the mystical, romantic and expressive, and often by the use of symbolic figures.
ArtStory: Symbolism
Clement Greenberg
Clement Greenberg
Clement Greenberg
Clement Greenberg was one the leading American art critics during the twentieth century. Best known as the ideological counterpart to Harold Rosenberg, Greenberg was a formalist who coined the terms "American-type painting" and 'Post-painterly abstraction.' He was a staunch champion of pure abstraction, including the work of Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still and Hans Hofmann.
ArtStory: Clement Greenberg
John Marin
John Marin
John Marin
John Marin was an early American modernist associated with the circle of artists around Alfred Stieglitz and the 1913 Armory Show. His paintings and watercolors often depicted abstracted cityscapes and landscapes.
John Marin
American Modernist Painting
American Modernist Painting
American Modernist Painting
American Modernist Painting began to coalesce with the Armory Show of 1913, and lasted through the Great Depression. American modernists were diverse, including Precisionists, scene painters, and abstractionists, and looked both to Europe and to homegrown styles for their influence.
American Modernist Painting
Piet Mondrian
Piet Mondrian
Piet Mondrian
Piet Mondrian, a founding member of the De Stijl movement, was a modern Dutch artist who used grids, perpendicular lines, and the three primary colors in what he deemed Neo-plasticism.
ArtStory: Piet Mondrian
Modernism and Modern Art
Modernism and Modern Art
Modernism and Modern Art
For all its complexities, Modernism is a term applied to late-nineteenth century and twentieth-century movements - including art, literature, architecture, philosophy, etc. - that promote and postulate the new, free from derivation and historical references. And for the new to be possible, old movements must be altogether abandoned, or in the case of Picasso's Cubism, deconstructed. In these paintings, for example, familair subject matter is taken apart, laid out, and thus seen from an entirely new perspective.
ArtStory: Modernism and Modern Art
Joseph Cornell
Joseph Cornell
Joseph Cornell
Joseph Cornell was an American artist, best known for his collage work and "shadow boxes," which were highly complex diorama-like constructions. Cornell incorporated found objects, old photos, newspaper clippings and other objects into these boxes, resulting in uniquely surreal, three-dimensional worlds. Cornell was one of the few American artists associated with Surrealism.
ArtStory: Joseph Cornell
Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley was an American painter and poet. After studying at the Art Students League of New York, Hartley became a member of Alfred Stieglitz's 291 Gallery Group, and was an important Modernist in the early-twentieth-century years of New York.
Marsden Hartley