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Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
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Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)

Sea II

Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
Sea II
chiffon and sand on metal
12 ½ x 20 ½ in. (31.8 x 52.1 cm.)
Executed in 1925.
The artist.
Estate of the above.
The Edith Gregor Halpert Collection, New York, acquired from the above.
Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, Highly Important 19th and 20th Century American Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors and Sculpture: From the Estate of the Late Edith Gregor Halpert (The Downtown Gallery), 15 March 1973, lot 105, sold by the above.
Acquired by the late owner from the above.
Archives of American Art, Downtown Gallery Papers, roll ND 31, frames 354, 355, 333; roll 2425, frame 251.
A.L. Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, Delaware, 1984, pp. 144-45, no. 25.16, illustrated.
R.Z. DeLue, Arthur Dove: Always Connect, Chicago, Illinois, 2016, pp. 39, 192, 194, 226-27, fig. 24, illustrated.
(Probably) New York, The Intimate Gallery, Arthur G. Dove, January 11-February 7, 1926.
New York, The Downtown Gallery, Collages: Dove, November 1-26, 1955, no. 8.
Houston, Texas, Contemporary Arts Museum, Collage International: From Picasso to the Present, February 27-April 6, 1958.
Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center, Six Decades of American Painting of the Twentieth Century, February 10-March 12, 1961, no. 20 (as The Sea).
College Park, Maryland, University of Maryland Art Gallery, Arthur Dove: The Years of Collage, March 13-April 19, 1967, no. 15.
New York, Terry Dintenfass, Inc., Arthur G. Dove: Collages, December 22, 1970-January 23, 1971, no. 7.
San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Buffalo, New York, Albright-Knox Gallery; St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Art Museum; Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago; Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Arthur Dove, November 21, 1974-January 18, 1976, p. 50, illustrated.
St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Art Museum; Honolulu, Hawaii, Honolulu Academy of Arts; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, The Ebsworth Collection: American Modernism, 1911-1947, November 20, 1987-June 5, 1988, pp. 88-89, 204, no. 22, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Andover, Massachusetts, Addison Gallery of American Art; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, September 20, 1997-October 4, 1998, pp. 32, 63, 183, no. 30, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, March 5-November 12, 2000, pp. 90-92, no. 16, illustrated.
Williamstown, Massachusetts, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Dove/O'Keeffe: Circles of Influence, June 7-September 7, 2009, p. 71, pl. 24, illustrated.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming revision of the Arthur Dove Catalogue Raisonné, under the direction of Debra Bricker Balken.

Heralded as the very first truly abstract American artist, Arthur Dove's career can be defined by his innovative and ever-evolving approach to both subject matter and media. As epitomized by his assemblages, such as Sea II, Dove's manipulation of material and spirit of experimentation make him one of the most compelling artists of the twentieth century.

Dove experienced a surge of innovation in the 1920s, creating twenty-five collages between 1924 and 1930 made from a list of everyday materials: rulers, newspaper, bamboo, buttons, fur, springs, steel wool, twigs and, in the present example, chiffon and sand. His "things," as he called them, reflected Dada ideals, in that the objects used to create a work of art are considered works of art themselves. Although the artistic use of recycled objects was of the moment, Dove’s improvisation with these unusual, inexpensive materials was likely also inspired by his need to be economical on an unstable income. Fellow artist and friend Georgia O'Keeffe noted, "I think he worked with collage because it was cheaper than painting and it also amused him. Once he was started on it one thing after another came to him very easily with any material he found at hand." (as quoted in Arthur Dove: The Years of Collage, exhibition catalogue, College Park, Maryland, 1967, p. 13)

Beyond their thrifty origins, Dove’s collages carry deeper meanings, evoking their inspirations with often ironically contradictory materials. For example, in Sea II and the related Sea I (1925, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts), the ocean is represented by a cold, unforgiving sheet of metal yet also a soft, fluid length of rippled chiffon. The partially-obscured, reflective surface changes with the light, creating a depiction that both visually and symbolically recalls the sea.

The ocean played an important role throughout Dove’s career. For much of the 1920s, he lived on a sailboat in Long Island Sound with his wife Helen ‘Reds’ Torr, and the environment not only restricted studio space such that collages were easier to execute than large-scale paintings, but also the constant natural surroundings of water became a central motif of his work. In addition to its immediacy in his everyday life, water likely also appealed as a subject to Dove because its movement possesses an inherent musicality. Dove's interest in nature extended beyond its outward forms to its more elusive aspects, particularly sound, as suggested with his frequent explicit metaphors comparing color to musical notes, and implied in the natural 'music' of the water itself. Quite a few of Dove's early works envelop the motif of music, suggesting a thematic connection between music and abstract art, which was actively championed by the European abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky. According to Ann Lee Morgan, Dove's most dramatically abstract early oils, such as Sentimental Music (circa 1913, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), "demonstrate that he, like Kandinsky, was aware of the philosophical and aesthetic linkage between music and the formal components of visual art. This connection made possible the justification for abstract painting on the grounds that it followed the precedent of music, which relies entirely on abstract means but nevertheless touches the soul." (Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, New Jersey, 1984, p. 47).

In Sea II, as in much of Dove's best art, the artist develops in pictorial terms the visual and the aural in nature. The motion of the water is suggested by the undulating waves of the gauzy material. The underlying metal surface adopts a shimmering quality and appears to almost dance before the eye as if instructed to do so by some greater orchestral force. The resulting patterning and palpable rhythm evoke Dove’s statement: “I have come to the conclusion that one must have a means governed by a definitive rhythmic sense beyond geometric repetition. The play or spread or swing of space can only be felt with this kind of consciousness…To make it breathe as does the rest of nature it must have a basic rhythm.” (as quoted Arthur Dove, p. 76) Indeed, Sea II reflects Dove's unwavering fascination with the patterns and symbols of the natural world coupled with his passionate investigation into abstraction—quintessential elements that earned him renown as one of the most important American Modernist artists.

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