Arthur Dove (1880-1946, U. S.)
Saint Peter’s, 1937
Watercolor, 29 x 24 cm.
Gift of Richard A. Scudamore ’55
Arthur Dove, whose abstractions from nature would influence many younger American artists, was born in Canandaigua, New York, in 1880. Dove moved with his family in 1882 to Geneva, New York, and even as a child, began experimenting with painting. Following his parents’ wishes, he began pre-law study in 1901 at Cornell University. However, he enrolled in art courses as well, and after graduating in 1903, worked as an illustrator in New York. During an eighteen-month trip to Europe (1907-09), Dove met Max Weber and Alfred Maurer, and soon after his return to New York he met Alfred Stieglitz, who was to be his dealer and advisor for the rest of his life. In 1909 he moved to Westport, Connecticut, where he painted and kept a farm. In his first one-person exhibition, held at Stieglitz’s Gallery 291 in 1912, Dove established himself as one of America’s most prolific and inventive artists working with abstraction. Dove continued to paint abstractions until his death in 1946.
This work was sent to Alfred Stieglitz at An American Place in New York by Dove. It has only had two owners before coming to the Colleges. It is a depiction of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Geneva, New York. Dove’s watercolors were stimulated by his admiration for those of Georgia O’Keeffe’s earlier works. Dove did not commit himself to watercolor until 1930. Its translucent liquidity suited his need for what he called ·”·a means of expression which did not depend upon representation. . . [but was] nearer to the music of the eye.·”· The crystalline light of water color well-handled evoked what he referred to as ·”·sensations of light from within and without.·”· He took readily to the medium, producing one or two a day. summarizes Dove’s characteristic tension between empathy with the natural world and a bent toward full abstraction. The fluidity of the paint and the speed of the brush dabbing wet-in-wet suggest a locale – a broken downward stroke for a tree, a single horizontal one for the water’s edge – without depicting it. Its subject is the fugitive mood of the place, a turbulent metaphor for the inner life of the artist observing it.
D.B. Balken, Arthur Dove: Watercolors, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2006, pp. 45, 84, pl. 27, illustrated.
“Arthur Dove: Watercolors at the Alexandre Gallery,” New York Times, June 17, 2006.
D.B. Balken, Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence, exhibition catalogue, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2009, n.p., pl. 39, illustrated.