Dove, Arthur G.

Dove, Arthur G. Biography

American painter, who was among the first artists to create nonrepresentational oil paintings. Many experts on American art consider Dove the most important and most original artist of his generation. Despite his move toward abstract art, Dove always found inspiration in nature. The abstract qualities in his work grew out of his search for underlying mathematical laws and from a belief in the interconnectedness of all things spiritual and physical.

Dove was born in Canandaigua, New York, and studied at Hobart College and Cornell University. He moved to New York City in 1903 to pursue a career as a magazine illustrator. During a trip to Europe from 1907 to 1909, he turned to the modernism of European artists, particularly to the broad, flat areas of bright colors in the work of French painter Henri Matisse. Dove returned to the United States and became one of its first modern artists.

In 1910 and 1911 Dove created a series of artworks, Abstractions Nos. 1-6 (held in a private collection), which had few, if any, references to real-life objects. In these and later paintings, he suggested meanings and sensations through lines, shapes, and colors, rather than by narrative themes. Dove's art reflects his belief that colour and form are instruments with which to express the essence beneath the physical exterior of things; his shapes are typically amorphous, his colours muted. In Fog (1929, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado), for example, he captured the sounds of foghorns as concentric circles that appear to emerge from a befogged ocean.

Dove continuously refined his style to eliminate forms he considered inessential, leaving only simple and carefully related shapes. His works of the late 1930s and 1940s are composed largely of flat or convex forms. These compositions reflect in part the influence of rigid verticals and horizontals in artworks by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.

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