Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
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Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
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Modern Icons: Property from an Important Private Collection
ARTHUR G. DOVE (1880-1946)


ARTHUR G. DOVE (1880-1946)
signed 'Dove' (lower center)
oil on canvas
24 x 33 in. (70 x 83.8 cm.)
Painted in 1935.
The artist.
Estate of the above.
The Downtown Gallery, New York.
David I. Elterman, acquired from the above, 1959.
Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., New York.
Private collection.
Martha Parrish & James Reinish, Inc., New York.
Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York, 1992.
Private collection, 1992.
James Reinish & Associates, Inc., New York, 2013.
Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York, 2013.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2013.
A.L. Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, Delaware, 1984, pp. 228-29, no. 35.21, illustrated.
House & Garden, vol. 160, 1988, p. 216, illustrated.
D.B. Balken, Arthur Dove: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Things, New Haven, Connecticut, 2021, p. 223, no. 1935.27, illustrated.
New York, An American Place, Arthur G. Dove: Exhibition of Paintings (1934-1935), April 21-May 22, 1935, no. 14.
New York, Downtown Gallery, Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946): Paintings, April 22-May 10, 1952, no. 11.
New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., Arthur Dove: Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings, Collages, November 3-December 29, 1984.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

Arthur Dove’s greatest patron, Duncan Phillips, once declared, "Arthur G. Dove deserves to be ranked with the dissimilar 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." (as quoted in F.S. Wright, Arthur G. Dove, Berkeley, California, 1958, p. 13) Indeed, Dove’s explorations into pure abstraction in the early twentieth century 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. As epitomized by Sunset of 1935, Dove’s abstracted visions of nature’s rhythms importantly anticipated and influenced the post-War Abstract Expressionist movement to come.

Dove achieved his groundbreaking style through abstracting natural forms into a series of shapes, colors and lines that appeared as central motifs in his Modernist works. Painted when Dove was living on his family’s Upstate New York farm in Geneva, Sunset, as in many of Dove’s best works, features the circle as the dominant form of the arrangement. Rachael Z. DeLue explains, “Dove frequently employed such a concentric circle motif to render the motion and mechanics of light or celestial bodies…the sun and its rays take on a concentric cast, while the curving lines and biomorphic forms amplify the rotational force of the composition.” (Arthur Dove: Always Connect, Chicago, Illinois, 2016, p. 17) Barbara Haskell further describes, “For Dove this rhythm was symbolized by a circular shape expanding from a central core in concentric bands of modulated color. Similar to the effect of a pebble dropped in water, this imagery set up a dynamic reverberation throughout the composition. The sense of vitality was further enhanced by the use of clearly visible brushstrokes which resembled pulsations of energy.” (Arthur Dove, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco, California, 1974, p. 76)

Indeed, his contemporary Georgia O’Keeffe stated that she was first attracted to Dove’s work “for its abstract organic shapes that coalesced into a seductive, undulating, rhythmic pattern." (as quoted in D.B. Balken, Dove/O'Keeffe: Circles of Influence, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2009, p. 21) O'Keeffe and Dove shared a profound connection to nature, and the two artists were introduced by Alfred Stieglitz, who represented both artists at his gallery “291.” Their shared commitment and spiritual connection to the natural world led to a mutual admiration for one another's work and a lifelong artistic dialogue. O'Keeffe collected Dove’s work, and reflected, “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.” (as quoted in Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence, p. 25)

Dove and O'Keeffe both incorporated the circular iconography of suns and moons throughout their careers, and they influenced fellow Modernists in the Stieglitz Circle, such as Oscar Bluemner and John Marin, to include similar forms in their works. Their interpretation of representative forms into emotionally powerful, flattened shapes of color also importantly anticipates American artists of the next generation, including Arshile Gorky and Robert Motherwell. In fact, Abstract Expressionist Theodoros Stamos showed strong interest in Dove’s work, which he encountered through Alfred Stieglitz, and Stamos went on to introduce Mark Rothko to Dove as well. Similarly, Kenneth Noland encountered several of Dove’s works at The Phillips Collection, and their influence is certainly seen in Noland’s Concentric Circles series begun in the late 1950s.

Dove’s triumphant Sunset evokes the senses, rather than the particulars of the scene, through his dynamic layering of undulating forms, vibrant palette and sensuous, brushy surface. As Phillips praised of his work, “Mat surfaces could be rich and sensuous. Flat painting…could be vibrant. Magic could come from contour and from color and texture and retain the first joy of direct experience.” (Arthur G. Dove, Berkeley, California, 1958, p. 14) Sunset epitomizes this individual exploration into abstract technique that characterizes Dove’s revolutionary body of work.

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