Throughout his groundbreaking career, Arthur Dove drew his chief inspiration from the natural world with which he surrounded himself. Perhaps the boldest pioneer of American expressionist painting, Dove's works straddled nineteenth-century America's idealism and reverence of nature, and the preeminence of subjectivity that was emerging in the twentieth-century. Dove achieved a perfect balance through abstracting natural forms into a series of shapes, colors, and lines that appeared as central motifs in his modernist works.
In describing Dove's early exploration of expressionist painting, his foremost patron and promoter, Duncan Phillips, wrote: "Ready to endure any hardship and to make any sacrifice to paint as he pleased he became a rebel against the preconception, still too prevalent in American art schools and formidable in 1907, that realistic representation is the only excuse for any artist. He was not less inclined, as his experiments matured in the 1920's, to dissent from the idioms and ideas of Fauvism, futurism, and cubism, which had developed into styles among the European leaders of abstract painting. Compelled to support his own creative experiments, he resolved to farm and live in rural solitude where living costs were low and he could be free from the distractions of the art world. The soil attracted him, seemed to call him home. The forms in nature were to be his dictionary. The spirit that emanates from material substance would be his goal." (F.S. Wight, Arthur G. Dove, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 1958, p. 13)
The 1930's has been regarded as a turning point in Dove's career as the abstracted forms drawn from nature developed in the 1920's reached full maturity. From 1933 until 1938, Dove lived at his parents' home in Geneva, New York, attempting to salvage the farmland and buildings where he grew up. Prior to returning to Geneva, Dove remarked to close friend 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--plenty of houses and rooms to be apart, barns, studio, etc. Everything built to last forever...I can get enough to eat out of the land there--have proved that. The paintings out to pay for the paint." (as quoted in D.B. Balken, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, Andover, Massachusetts, 1997, p. 97)
Dove's intimacy with his natural surroundings found direct expression in his works of this period such as Wood Pile. Stylistically, the present work is typical of Dove's works from his Geneva period. The sawed log ends are abstracted into an engaging pattern of colors and shapes, only somewhat recognizable. Dove's choice of colors, which during this period consisted primarily of natural tones, have a strong expressive function and work closely to create a unified image.
Duncan Phillips wrote: "Magic could come from color and texture and retain the first real joy of direct experience. There was the earthy, the elemental, to be savored in paint, and yet subtleties of modulated tone were not to be thought inconsistent with nature's organic forms and the happy incidents that nature provides for art in time, light, and weather." (Arthur G. Dove, p. 14)