Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946)
Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946)


Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946)
signed 'Dove' (lower center)
oil on masonite
15 x 19½ in. (38.1 x 49.6 cm.)
Painted January 30-31 1932
An American Place, New York (1932).
The Downtown Gallery, New York (1946).
Private collection (1958).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 1 December 1988, lot 241.
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, by 1994.
Arthur and Helen Torr Dove Papers, 1905-1975, Series 3: Writings (Diaries), Box 2, Folder 6, January 30-February 1, 1932, Archives of American Art.
E. McCausland, "An Artist's Coming of Age-Arthur G. Dove Exhibit Shows Artistic Advance," The Springfield Sunday Union and Republican, March 29, 1932, sec. E, p. 6.
Arthur Dove Record Cards, Suzanne Mullet Smith Papers, Archives of American Art, microfilm roll, no. 1043:750-751.
Downtown Gallery Papers, Archives of American Art, microfilm roll, no. 2425:529, 723-724.
A.L. Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work, with a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, New Jersey, 1984, pp. 205-07, no. 32.18 (llustrated).
B. Ryden, "Spots on the Sun," Star Date, January-February 1990, p. 20 (illustrated).
Berry-Hill Galleries, American Paintings VI, exh. cat., New York, 1990, pp. 166-67 (illustrated).
New York, An American Place, Arthur G. Dove: New Paintings (1931-1932), March-April 1932, no. 13.
New York, The Downtown Gallery, Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946): Paintings, April-May 1952, no. 5.

Lot Essay

Arthur Dove's luminous and expressionistic representation of the sun in Sunday is a stunning example of the artist's quintessential subject: the biomorphic abstraction of natural forms. Sunday captures the intrinsic beauty in nature without explicitly representing natural forms, relying on vibrant color and an exquisitely radiant paint surface to evoke a multi-sensorial experience of the sun. After staring directly at the sun, the human eye will retain an impression of the sun on the retina. This blindingly intense afterglow is expertly portrayed by Dove, evoking the unbridled energy and raw force of nature in a beautiful display of technical skill and creative dynamism. Dove's vision of the sun is informed by direct observation and his subjective interpretation of a specific view of the sun from his studio, presumably on Sunday, January 10, 1932. Sunday is the pinnacle of Dove's exploration of the abstraction of natural forms, exemplifying his masterful ability to represent various natural elements in a seamless and cohesive solitary entity. In describing Dove's innovative technique, Barbara Haskell has explained that he "eliminated the separateness of forms through the use of hazy, indistinct contours that merge into each other and into the atmospheric environment." (Arthur Dove, San Francisco, California, 1975, p. 76)

The formal relationship between color, shape, and composition--strikingly rendered in oil using an ethereal, feathered technique--is intimately related to its conceptual meaning. Sunday simultaneously evokes the collective understanding of Sunday as a day of peaceful rest and Dove's own impression of a distinct moment in time, perhaps even bringing to mind the crisp ringing of church bells. The liberal use of radiant hues of yellow and blue and emphasis on capturing the effects of light suggest the influence of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Fauvism. Dove pushes the limitations of the medium, exploring its potential for beauty and emphasizing the formal properties in an effort to make oil paint as beautiful as it could possibly be. Subject matter and representation are secondary to the visual brilliance and unparalleled beauty of the overall painting. Two glowing, yellow orbs dominate the composition, flanked by geometric shapes evoking an abstract landscape, amid a cool blue background. The various shapes jutting forth from the central form are highlighted by a feathery, white aura that suggests the sun's own halo and the effects of light and atmosphere.

Dove painted Sunday in January 1932 while residing with his wife, Helen Torr Dove, at the Ketewomoke Yacht Club in Halesite, Long Island. The details surrounding Dove's conceptualizing of Sunday are fortuitously recorded in Helen Torr Dove's personal diary. As she explains, Dove intended to complete a painting "every day for a week--each an essence of the kind of day it is." (as quoted in Helen Torr Dove Diaries, 1930-1939, Archives of American Art, microfilm roll 38:348) The notion that the essence of a day could be abstractly represented in a painting challenged traditional modes of representing nature. The present work is an expression of what that specific day signified in the natural world, embodying the tranquility characteristic of a Sunday afternoon in the form of an abstract, dazzling vision of the sun. Sunday is a stunning example of Dove's mastery of the oil medium in pursuit of his abstract vision of nature, representing the culmination of his celebrated series depicting the days of the week.

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