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Arthur Dove

August 2, 1880 - November 23, 1946


Arthur Garfield Dove is considered America’s first abstract painter to use nonrepresentational imagery; he called these works “extractions.” He recorded weather conditions in his diaries and used these as inspiration. His work was also influenced by Wassily Kandinsky and Cubism, and like Kandinsky, he was interested in spirituality and the parallels between music and art. He in turn inspired other artists like Georgia O’Keeffe.

Dove was born in Geneva, New York, to wealthy parents who named him after the 1880 Republican vice presidential and presidential candidates, Chester Arthur and James Garfield. His parents were appalled at his decision to pursue a career in the arts after graduating from Cornell. His first jobs were as an illustrator at publications like Harper’s Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. Quiet and gentle by nature, Dove married his first wife Florence in 1907 and they traveled to Europe, this trip cemented his desire to become an artist. Duncan Phillips became his patron (the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. has more Dove works than any other U.S. museum because of this) and photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, gave him his first solo show.

Dove’s wife was not interested in an artist’s life, and he fell in love with Helen Torr, who shared his passions. Florence would not give him a divorce, or allow him to see his young son, and the two lived in poverty exacerbated by his ill health until he inherited his parents. They married after Florence’s unexpected early death. None of this personal drama would show up in his work, which has an inner luminosity.

The tiny Arthur Dove-Helen Torr cottage in Centerport, New York, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Torr’s art was seldom shown during her lifetime, but are now being exhibited, often with Dove’s.

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