Figure 4, 1945
Oil on canvas
18 x 24 in.
b. 1880, Canandaigua, New York
d. 1946, Huntington, New York
Arthur Dove was an American abstract painter who was deeply inspired by the natural world, music, spirituality, and the interconnectedness inherent in all living things. Born and raised in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Dove graduated from Cornell University in 1903 and moved to New York City. There, he married Florence Dove (née Dorsey) and worked as a freelance magazine illustrator. The couple took a transformative, extended trip to Europe in 1907, where, in Paris, the American artist Alfred Maurer introduced Dove to European modernism. Dove exhibited his own early Impressionist- and Fauvist-inspired paintings at the Salon d’Automne in 1908 and 1909.
Dove returned to New York in 1909 and began experimenting with abstraction by crafting organic and rhythmic compositions in oils, watercolor, and pastels. His work from this period on aimed to express the essences, sensations, and energies of light and motion beneath the physical world. Maurer connected Dove with Alfred Stieglitz in 1909; the photographer exhibited Dove’s innovative abstract paintings at his 291 gallery in the group show Younger American Painters (1910) and also held the artist’s first solo show, Paintings of Arthur Dove, in 1912. Dove would continue to exhibit annually with Stieglitz throughout his life.
Dove moved to a farm in Connecticut in 1910 and spent the majority of his life in the countryside; he later lived with his second wife, painter Helen “Reds” Torr, on a houseboat in Huntington Harbor. The landscape, the Cubist movement, the compositions of Wassily Kandinsky, and the music of Bing Crosby were all continual inspirations for Dove as his oeuvre grew. After purchasing a painting by Dove in 1926, the collector Duncan Phillips became an active and steady patron of the artist. Though Dove struggled to sell many works beyond this, he garnered much critical attention: in addition to Stieglitz’s shows, Dove exhibited in the 1933 Whitney Biennial and has been shown extensively by institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Clark Art Institute. A vastly influential figure for the first generation of Abstract Expressionists in New York, Arthur Dove is considered by some to be one of the first American working painters to pursue pure abstraction.