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Inner Worlds

Art and Artists  Arthur Dove
 Richard Hunt
 Judy Onofrio
 Betye Saar
 Kay Sage
 Yves Tanguy
 Jane Tuckerman

What is Art? Environment Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Arthur Dove

Arthur Dove, Gale Click to larger image
Arthur Dove
Gale, 1932
oil on canvas
25 3/4 x 35 3/4 in.

About the Art

The art of Arthur Dove blended his abiding love and connection to nature and natural forces with a deep interest in ideas and philosophies of modern art and life. While he was influenced early on by French Post-Impressionists and Fauve artists such as Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse, Dove developed his own organic approach to abstractions from nature. He called his abstract paintings "extractions," because the compositions were based on the pulsating energy of nature. For Dove, this approach was a way to extract the underlying essence of things--rendering the invisible visible.

He was one of the earliest artists in either Western Europe or the United States to create purely abstract or non-objective paintings. He has often been compared to Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian artist whose studies of emotional and spiritual states led him to create non-objective art about the same time as Arthur Dove. Dove probably never saw Kandinsky's paintings until the Armory Show in 1913, several years after his own experiments with non-objective art. Unlike Kandinsky, however, Dove's paintings were always derived from the natural world.

Later Dove returned to more representational art and during the rest of his career, he moved back and forth between painting abstract and non-objective works. Dove continued his fascination with the basic organic shapes of plants and animals and their place in the landscape.

Along with his American modernist peers, including Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer, and Georgia O'Keeffe, Dove looked to nature to symbolize the elemental forces of change in the universe.

Gale was painted in 1932 in the middle of the Depression--a time of financial hardship for Dove, who did not accept the support of government work projects. It was also the year that his close friend Alfred Maurer committed suicide. Five years had passed since Dove moved from his home on a houseboat, but memories of the sea remained strong. In a letter to Alfred Stieglitz, Dove described a storm he experienced aboard the Mona;

"It is now 3:45 a.m. in the midst of a terrific gale and we are anchored in the middle of Manhasset Bay...have been trying to memorize this storm all day so that I can paint it. Storm green and storm gray. It has been too dark and nerve-strained to paint..."

Unlike the lyrical, pastoral themes of his other works, Gale shows a menacing, almost haunted character. The clouds and sea seem to be transforming into hands, arms and eyes.

Vocabulary Terms

Armory Show--An exhibition (actually titled The International Exhibition of Modern Art) that was held in the armory in New York from February 17- March 15, 1913. It subsequently traveled to Boston and Chicago. The exhibition, which was seen by more than 400,000 people was controversial, but a major cultural event of its time. The Armory Show included approximately 1,200 works that introduced the American public to Post-Impressionist and Cubist art.

avant-garde--Describes new and innovative art or artists that depart from tradition to experiment with a new style, technique, or subject matter. From the French word for "vanguard."

Fauve--A French term meaning "a wild beast" used to label a group of early 20th century French artists, led by Henri Matisse, who used bright, unnatural colors and slashing brush strokes to paint images of contemporary life.

non-objective--Art that is purely an arrangement of line, color, shape, form, or texture and that does not show any recognizable person, place, or thing.

organic--Things pertaining to living organisms or something from the natural world. In art, organic shapes are derived from natural forms.

Post-Impressionists--A label given to a diverse group of French artists: Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Georges Seurat, who were working in the 1880s and 1890s. These artists shared a dissatisfaction with Impressionism's tendency to blur shapes and forms with loose brush strokes, but each explored their own individual approaches to form and expression in art. The Post-Impressionists are credited for laying the groundwork for the many modern movements that followed.

representational--Depicts an object in nature in recognizable form.

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