ARTHUR G. DOVE (1880-1946)
ARTHUR G. DOVE (1880-1946)
ARTHUR G. DOVE (1880-1946)
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Modern American Masterworks from the Ted Shen Collection
ARTHUR G. DOVE (1880-1946)

Running River

ARTHUR G. DOVE (1880-1946)
Running River
oil on metal
20 x 15 in. (50.8 x 38.1 cm.)
Painted in 1927.
The artist.
Estate of the above, 1946.
The Downtown Gallery, New York, 1956.
Fred Rudin, Atlantic Beach, New York, 1969.
Richard York Gallery, New York, 1989.
Warner Collection of Gulf States Paper Corporation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, acquired from the above, 1991.
Christie’s, New York, 30 November 1999, lot 137, sold by the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
M. Pemberton, “Dove Comes to Terms,” The New Yorker, December 24, 1927.
B. Haskell, Arthur Dove, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco, California, 1974, p. 135.
A.L. Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work, with a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, Delaware, 1984, pp. 121, 158, 160, nos. 20.3 and 27.13.
R.S. Harnsberger, Four Artists of the Stieglitz Circle: A Sourcebook on Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and Max Weber, Westport, Connecticut, 2002, p. 76.
D.B. Balken, Arthur Dove: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Things, New Haven, Connecticut, 2021, p. 132, no. 1927.14, illustrated.
New York, Intimate Gallery, Arthur G. Dove: Paintings, December 12, 1927-January 11, 1928, no. 15.
Iowa City, Iowa, University of Iowa, The New Gallery, Vintage Moderns: American Pioneer Artists, 1903-1932, May 24-August 2, 1962, pp. 11-12, no. 19, illustrated.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1963 (as Untitled).
Detroit, Michigan, Donald Morris Gallery, Arthur G. Dove: Oils, Watercolors, Drawings, Collage, May 3-23, 1964, n.p., no. 4, illustrated.
New York, Terry Dintenfass Gallery, Essences: Arthur G. Dove, January 28-February 22, 1975.
New York, Richard York Gallery, Arthur Dove: Major Works, October 5-November 17, 1990, n.p., no. 4.
New York, Richard York Gallery, Modernism at the Salons of America: 1922-1936, October 19-December 8, 1995, pp. 11, 16, no. 15, illustrated.
Brooklyn, New York, The Brooklyn Museum, A Family Album: Brooklyn Collects, March 2-July 1, 2001.

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Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

An elegant experiment in synesthesia, Running River embodies the innovative play with abstracted natural forms that established Arthur Dove at the forefront of American Modernism. Derived from a moment in nature looking down at running water, the present work captures not only Dove’s visual memory, but also a full sensory experience incorporating the trickling aural melody of the river.

Dove’s fascination with the temporality of running water was first explored in 1919 in his charcoal drawing #4 Creek, which he said was inspired “while knee-deep in flowing water, looking downstream into the woods.” (as quoted in Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, Andover, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 28) That initial literal immersion would lead to his revisiting the subject throughout the course of his career, including in Waterfall (1925, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.) and the present work from 1927. As the artist explained in the brochure for the painting’s debut at The Intimate Gallery: “The colors in the painting ‘Running River’ were chosen looking down into a stream. The red and yellow from the wet stones and the green from moss with black and white. The line was a moving point reducing the moving volume to one dimension. From then on it is expressed in terms of color as music is in terms of sound." (as quoted in Arthur Dove, San Francisco, California, 1974, p. 135)

With the work’s intention of committing the rhythm of rushing water into linear expression, Running River can be seen as an extension of Dove’s primary series of 1927, which visualized popular musical compositions, including Irving Berlin’s An Orange Grove in California (Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain) and George Gershwin’s Stairway to Paradise (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts). Dove would create ticker-tape-like long pieces of paper filled with notations transcribing the musical tempo of these songs, which in the final paintings became gestural cross-hatched lines and swirls over broader swathes of color. Rachel Z. DeLue describes, “Sweeping and spiraling lines and sizzling color mark the quick and deft cadences and the brash energy of the compositions.” (Arthur Dove: Always Connect, Chicago, Illinois, 2016, p. 158)

Painted the same year as these overtly musical works, Running River exhibits a similar use of coiled forms, gestural brushstrokes and dappling of brighter dabs of paint. Just as Dove used weaving lines to record progressions of musical notes, here he also linearly captures the rhythm of the river over time; bubbly forms move in circuitous paths over the lower half of the picture plane, bracketed on either side by streaming vertical force lines of blue and red that suggest quicker rushes of water flow. Layering his pigments atop a reflective metal support rather than canvas, and juxtaposing forms at varied angles, Dove creatively imbues the work with that unique distortion found when looking below a blurred water surface to garner an elusive glimpse of the underlying riverbank.

Dove’s primary patron Duncan Phillips once praised of his work, “Magic could come from contour and from color and texture and retain the first joy of direct experience.” (as quoted in F.S. Wight, Arthur G. Dove, Berkeley, California, 1958, p. 14) Running River radiates this magical sensation, innovatively adapting an everyday experience in nature into a complete multisensorial evocation of not just the sights but also the sounds and feelings to be experienced within the perpetual movement of a flowing stream.

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