Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection
Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)

Long Island

Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
Long Island
signed 'Dove' (lower center)
oil on canvas
20 x 32 in. (50.8 x 81.3 cm.)
Painted in 1940.
The artist.
Estate of the above, 1946.
[With]The Downtown Gallery, New York.
Mr. and Mrs. George W.W. Brewster, Cambridge, Massachusetts, acquired from the above, 1962.
Galen Brewster, Concord, Massachusetts, by descent, by 1974.
Middendorf Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Carl Lobell, New York, acquired from the above, 1978.
Christie's, New York, 4 December 1997, lot 98, sold by the above.
Acquired by the late owner from the above.
Archives of American Art, Downtown Gallery Papers, reel ND 31, frames 88, 89.
F.S. Wight, Arthur G. Dove, Los Angeles, California, 1958, pp. 75, 96, illustrated.
A.L. Morgan, "Toward the Definition of Early Modernism in America: A Study of Arthur Dove," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1973, pp. 305, 545, no. 40.9, illustrated.
R. Metzger, "Biomorphism in American Painting," Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Los Angeles, 1973, pp. 58-59, 78.
A.L. Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work with a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, Delaware, 1984, pp. 263-65, no. 40.9, illustrated.
S. Cohn, Arthur Dove: Nature as Symbol, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1985, pp. 32, 74, 76, 86, 142, fig. 26, illustrated.
J. Dillenberger, A Theology of Artistic Sensibilities: The Visual Arts and the Church, Eugene, Oregon, 1986, p. 265.
"Small Session at Christie's," ARTnewsletter, vol. 23, no. 8, December 16, 1997, p. 2.
J. Updike, "Pioneer," New York Review of Books, vol. 45, no. 5, March 1998, p. 16.
M. Naves, "Levelheaded Mysticism: Arthur Dove at the Whitney," The New Criterion, vol. 16, no. 7, March 1998, p. 51.
D. Ngo, ed., Art + Architecture: The Ebsworth Collection + Residence, San Francisco, California, 2006, n.p., illustrated.
New York, An American Place, Arthur G. Dove: Exhibition of New Oils and Water Colors, March 30-May 14, 1940, no. 13.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Washington, D.C., Phillips Memorial Art Gallery; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; San Antonio, Texas, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; Los Angeles, California, Art Galleries of the University of California; LaJolla, California, LaJolla Art Center; San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Art, Arthur G. Dove, September 30, 1958-September 30, 1959, no. 72.
Fort Worth, Texas, Fort Worth Art Center; Austin, Texas, University of Texas, University Art Museum; Macon, Georgia, Mercer University Gallery; Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin College Museum of Art; South Hadley, Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College Gallery; Jacksonville, Florida, Cummer Gallery of Art; Athens, Georgia, University of Georgia Museum of Art; Mason City, Iowa, Charles H. MacNider Museum, Arthur Dove (organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York), March 3, 1968-April 27, 1969, no. 26.
San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Art; Buffalo, New York, Albright-Knox Art 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 15, 1975-January 18, 1976, p. 102, illustrated.
Huntington, New York, Heckscher Museum, Arthur Dove and Helen Torr: The Huntington Years, March 3-April 30, 1989, cover illustration.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Andover, Massachusetts, Phillips Academy, Addison Gallery of American Art; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, January 15-October 4, 1998, pp. 141, 152n31, 154, no. 73, 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. 96-98, 282, no. 18, 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.

Brought to you by

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.

Arthur Dove’s greatest patron, Duncan Phillips, once declared, “Arthur G. Dove deserves to be ranked with the dissimilar [Wassily] Kandinsky among the earliest Abstract Expressionists. Certainly, in the realm of uncompromising and impetuous exploration Dove was the boldest American pioneer. He was and is unique… Profound was his conversion…to the concept of the intimately symbolical image, to be abstracted from nature and from the most familiar objects, as a new language for painting” (D. Phillips, quoted in Arthur G. Dove, Los Angeles, 1958, p. 13). Indeed, Dove’s explorations into pure abstraction in the early 1910s are recognized as American art’s earliest forays into nonobjective painting, and throughout his ambitious career to follow, the artist continued to balance inspiration from the natural world with a boldly innovative spirit anticipating and influencing the post-War Abstract Expressionist movement to come. As epitomized by Long Island of 1940, and expressed in the artist’s own diary entry, Dove’s best paintings “work at [the] point where abstraction and reality meet” (A. Dove, artist’s diary, August 20, 1942).

In the spring of 1938, Dove and his wife, Helen ‘Reds’ Torr, left his isolated hometown of Geneva, New York, after five years. They returned to the North Shore of Long Island, where they had previously lived on the harbor, and settled in the small town of Centerport for the remainder of Dove’s life. Here Dove found a new creative drive that brought his artwork the closest it had been to the edge of pure abstraction since his earliest endeavors three decades prior. With this renewed imaginative energy came an evolution in style evidenced by bolder investigations into geometric distillations of form. Barbara Haskell observed: “The new work was tranquil and detached... His tendency toward extracting essences increased to the exclusion of all that was momentary or partially transitory. It was as if his primary objective was the attainment of an undisrupted timelessness” (B. Haskell, Arthur Dove, Los Angeles, 1974, p. 110).

Dove’s friend and fellow Stieglitz Circle artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, reflected, “I think Dove came to abstraction quite naturally… It was his way of thinking. Kandinsky was very showy about it, but Dove had an earthy, simple quality that led directly to abstraction. His things are very special. I always wish I’d bought more of them” (G. O’Keeffe, quoted in D.B. Balken, Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence, exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, New Haven, 2009, p. 25). Inspired by a specific view, yet with simple rounded forms that carry a host of potential meanings, Long Island embodies this unique sort of “earthy” abstraction. The rocky form at left has been identified by William C. Agee as Target Rock, a spot Dove would have visited on nearby Lloyd Harbor, which the British used for target practice during the Revolutionary War. The landscape is also grounded by the small glowing circle of the sun at upper center, with its radiating bands of color dissolving across the open sky. The sun and moon motif is prominent in the work of so many of the American Modernists, most notably O’Keeffe, John Marin and Oscar Bluemner, and positions the unusual environment of the present work within the familiar daily cycles of nature.

Yet, by abstracting every element of the rocks, water, sun and sky, Dove transforms the landscape into a mysterious composition of two imposing forms nestled between jagged, geometric shapes in the foreground and fluid bands of color beyond. Utilizing an earthy palette of greens and browns, Dove only subtly modulates the planar forms to create a setting that has little or no depth, and a scene that is open for interpretation. For example, Agee sees Long Island as rooted in the artist’s love of nature, citing the work as “one of his most poetic and moving paintings…it bespeaks a new serenity and harmony in Dove’s life, an ode to the land and the water he loved” (W. Agee, “New Directions: The Late Work, 1938-1946,” Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Addison Gallery of American Art, Cambridge, 1997, p. 141). By contrast, Frederick S. Wight saw a more primordial anthropomorphism in the globular shapes, writing for the 1958 Dove retrospective catalogue, “Long Island… is a painting of the natural history of an area. If it is geology, two glacier-deposited rocks sit in the brittle chop. If these objects are living things, they are blind creatures aware of each other, male and female, whale like forms of whale size under a small distant cool sun” (F. S. Wight, Arthur G. Dove, p. 75).

As in Dove’s most important work of this period, this ambiguity within Long Island reflects a tension between representative, three-dimensional forms and the emotional symbolism to be found in flattened planes of color—a theme which would be thoroughly explored by American artists of the next generation, including Arshile Gorky and Robert Motherwell. In fact, Abstract Expressionist Theodoros Stamos was very interested in Dove’s work, which he encountered through Alfred Stieglitz, and also drew Mark Rothko’s attention to his radical paintings. Ann Lee Morgan has written of the important innovation of Dove’s late work: “After 1935, Dove moved away from recognizable representation with increasing frequency… it seems as if the shapes of nature and expressive or symbolic constructs often began to merge for him… forms begin to become flatter and, increasingly, are treated as planes parallel to the picture plane… Dove was resolving the dichotomy between three-dimensional space and the picture plane in favor of the latter… The work of the forties, which was perhaps even more original for its time, constitutes the fruition of pure abstraction in his work. Beyond its intrinsic quality, it is particularly significant for the connections it makes with the burgeoning abstract tendencies of the forties and fifties. It anticipated both the gesturalism (albeit in a genteel form) and the color field interests of the upcoming generation” (A. L. Mogan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, 1984, pp. 59-60, 64).

In the spring of 1940, Long Island was included in an acclaimed exhibition of Dove’s new oils at Stieglitz’s American Place gallery. In the accompanying pamphlet for the exhibition, Dove included a poignant statement about his works: “As I see from one point in space to another, from the top of the tree to the top of the sun, from right or left, or up, or down, these are drawn as any line around a thing to give the colored stuff of it, to weave the whole into a sequence of formations rather than to form an arrangement of facts” (Arthur G. Dove: exhibition of new oils and water-colors, exh. cat., An American Place Gallery, New York, 1940). These sentiments, linking Dove’s form of abstraction with the elusive, symbolic connections between the various elements of nature, boldly reverberate throughout Long Island, and testify to Dove’s position as one of the most important influencers among the American Modernists.

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