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

Canandaigua Outlet, Oaks Corners

Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
Canandaigua Outlet, Oaks Corners
signed 'Dove' (lower center)
oil on canvas
11 1/8 x 18 in. (28.3 x 45.7 cm.)
Painted in 1937.
The Downtown Gallery, New York.
Brown Collection, acquired from the above, 1957.
Private collection, Boston, Massachusetts.
Adelson Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 2013.
A.L. Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, Delaware, 1984, pp. 239-40, no. 37.2 (as Canandaigua Outlet, Oaks Corners).
Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., A Gallery's Perspective, Modernist Painting and Sculpture in America: The Past 25 Years at Salander-O'Reilly, New York, 1999, pl. 12, illustrated (as Outlet Oaks Corner).
D.B. Balken, A.C. DePietro, Arthur Dove: Watercolors, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2006, pp. 23-24, fig. 24, illustrated (as Canandaigua Outlet, Oaks Corner).
A. Pensler, Arthur Dove: A Reassessment, Seattle, Washington, 2018, pp. 158, 187n7, 193n47, illustrated (as Outlet Oaks Corner).
New York, An American Place, Arthur G. Dove: New Oils and Water Colors, March 23-April 16, 1937, no. 13.
Los Angeles, California, Paul Kantor Gallery, Arthur Dove, May 7-June 1, 1956, no. 15 (as Outlet--Oakes Corner).
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Lot Essay

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

In 1933, Arthur G. Dove and his wife Helen ‘Reds’ Torr, an accomplished artist in her own right, moved back to his parents’ home in Geneva, New York, to attempt to salvage the farmland and buildings where he was raised. Although reluctant to return to the isolated environment Upstate, Dove optimistically wrote to his close friend and dealer Alfred Stieglitz: “Could work up there. It is good painting ground. Many lakes and if we can sell house we may all live on the farms…I can get enough to eat out of the land there--have proved that. The paintings ought to pay for paint." (as quoted in D.B. Balken, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, Andover, Massachusetts, 1997, p. 97) Over the next five years, Dove indeed found the natural and industrial landscape of the area to be fertile ground for his artistic endeavors, producing an impressive body of watercolors and oil paintings capturing his vibrant emotive response to the environment. As embodied by Canandaigua Outlet, Oaks Corners, Georgia O’Keeffe extolled of Dove’s output from these years, “Dove comes from the Finger Lakes region. He was up there painting, doing abstractions that looked just like that country, which could not have been done anywhere else.” (as quoted in B. Haskell, Arthur Dove, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco, California, 1974, p. 77)

During his time in Geneva, Dove would spend the spring and summer searching for inspiration on excursions to local sites, such as the Erie Canal. His usual practice was to record his initial ideas in watercolor sketches executed outdoors. He would then later sort through the many studies to determine which merited translation into final oil paintings during his studio time in the colder months. As Elizabeth Hutton Turner explains, “Dove made watercolors as cartoons for contemplation, moments of vision and recognition recorded in hopes that, as he once wrote, ‘the first flash will give the truth of one’s feelings.’…Watercolors were what Dove called his ‘models to build from’—records of light and color to be sorted in his winter bunker...” (Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, p. 102)

One of Dove’s favorite summer jaunts was to the Canandaigua Outlet, a tributary beginning at the edge of Canandaigua Lake and flowing through the hamlet of Oaks Corners. Several watercolors depicting the foliage and reflective waters of this location are known, each recording a different ‘flash of feeling’ in a range of colors and degrees of abstraction. The study inspiring the present work is also known as Canandaigua Outlet, Oaks Corners and is in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Entries in the artist’s diary from January 15-19, 1937 referring to “Outlet Trees” suggest that he worked that winter with “resin oil” and “grinding color in waxy” mediums in order to create the “quite brilliant” finish of the present oil version. (Arthur and Helen Torr Dove papers, 1905-1975, 1920-1946. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Box 2, Folder 9)

Comparing Dove’s watercolors and oil paintings, art critic Elizabeth McCausland wrote, “one may say that the sketches are freer and gayer; conversely the oils are stronger, more subtle, more suave, more abstract also of course.” (as quoted in Frederick S. Wight, Arthur G. Dove, Berkeley, California, 1958, p. 61) Comparing Canandaigua Outlet, Oaks Corners with its watercolor inspiration, this assessment holds true. The free-flowing, circuitous ink outlines of the watercolor that impulsively capture the rolling tree line in the background and overlapping foreground branches are faithfully translated onto the final canvas, probably with the use of a pantograph or magic lantern; however, while the sketch stays close to the natural green and brown palette of the environment, Dove electrifies his final composition through contrasts between brilliant blues, cool whites and deep, warm browns. In the oil, the abstracted forms are further exaggerated, reinforcing the ambiguities of the scene and creating a more powerful impression of the rhythmic forces Dove felt in such an environment. As Barbara Haskell explains, “The irregular, circular shapes swelling outward with halos of modulated color Dove favors in this period, suggest growth and explosive energy…This vocabulary of expanding images that push to the very edge of the composition…was a visual equivalent of the dense landscape around Geneva.” (Arthur Dove, pp. 73, 77)

Intensifying the artist’s impressions of a local riverbank into a holistic experience of interlocking fluid forms in brilliant color, Canandaigua Outlet, Oaks Corners represents the essence of Dove’s work in the Finger Lakes region in the 1930s. In the present work, as “in the best of these paintings, the great rhythms of nature itself seem to hold the compositions together, and the result is a vision, unique to Dove, of the wholeness of experience.” (A.L. Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, Delaware, 1984, p. 54)

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