Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dove, Arthur Garfield

Dancing Willows
oil and wax on canvas
68.6 x 91.1 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Arthur Garfield Dove (1880 - 1946) was an early American modernist artist, whose abstractions from nature influenced many younger American artists.  He is often considered the first American abstract painter.

He was born to a wealthy family in Canandaigua, New York. His parents were of English ancestry. His father was interested in politics and named his son Arthur Garfield, after the Republican candidates for President and Vice-President in the 1880 election, who ultimately won the vote.
His father was a very successful businessman and expected his son to become wealthy. Following his parents' wishes, he began pre-law study in 1901 at Cornell University, however, he enrolled in art courses as well. There, he was chosen to illustrate the Cornell University yearbook. And, his illustrations proved popular because they brought life to the characters and situations they depicted. After graduation, he became a well known commercial illustrator in New York City, working for Harper's Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. Dove's parents were upset at his choice to become an artist, instead of a more profitable profession that his Ivy League degree would have enabled.

In 1909 he moved to Westport, Connecticut, where he painted and kept a farm. In his first one-person exhibition in 1912, Dove established himself as one of America’s most prolific and inventive artists working with abstraction. He sought to represent the unseen rhythms and nuances of his environment and to record personal interpretations of nature by reducing form to its purest essence. In 1921 he moved to a houseboat on the Harlem River. From 1924 to 1933 he lived on the sailboat, on Huntington Harbor off of Long Island. Then he moved to Geneva to settle his family estate. Five years later, he returned to Long Island, purchasing a house.

The paintings he created during the years he lived on a boat on the coast of Long Island (1924-1933), portray the boats, barges, and docks of Huntington Harbor as well as the effects of weather on the environment. His years on the family estate in Geneva (1933-38) are represented by paintings that in their rural imagery and earthy browns, moss greens, and muted ochres evoke the atmosphere of living off of the land. During his last decade, spent back in the Huntington Harbor area, at Centerport, he painted in a freshly abstract style of crisp, bright color and spatial experimentation. Dove continued to paint abstractions until his death in 1946.