An American Abstract Artist Emerges
Arthur Dove was born on August 2, 1880 in Canandaigua, New York. His family was wealthy and his early interests included painting, playing the piano, and baseball. He began his artistic career as a student at Hobart College before eventually transferring to Cornell University where he studied commercial illustration until 1903. He then moved to New York City where he spent about four years of his life working as an illustrator for magazines like Harper's and The Saturday Evening Post.
In 1907, he and his wife, Florence Dorsey traveled to Paris, France. Here Dove was able to interact with other young American artists such as Alfred Maurer and Max Weber, who both influenced him with their Impressionist and Fauvist styles. Although little is known of Dove's travels in France, he most likely attended the Salon D'autiutomne of 1908, as a painting of his was exhibited there. He may have admired Odilon Redon's pastels, twenty-four of which were exhibited in Paris in the autumn of 1908; yet he most likely developed his interest in pastels from his close American friend, Alfred Maurer, in Paris.
Returning to New York, Dove met Alfred Stieglitz, who persuaded him to submit his still life Fauvist painting, The Lobster, to the Young American Painters exhibition. This exhibit, held at 291 Fifth Avenue, included several other artists such as John Marin, Marsden Hartley and Edward Steichen. The exhibit would eventually prove to be the beginning of a new friendship between Dove and Stieglitz.
The American Identity
One challenge experienced by many artists of this age was creating an original American style. American artists, including those of 291 Fifth Avenue, often struggled with producing an individual style that was not an obvious distillation of a European one. While some artists of these years saw life in modern cities as their representation of the US, Dove found his connection to the nation through nature. In search for inspiration Dove found himself enthralled by the theories of Europeans such as French psychologist Henri Bergson, the Russian-born German artist Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque.
In 1910 and 1911, Dove used these inspirations to create his paintings of Sentimental Music and Cow. Through these creative works, Dove was able to achieve stylized, abstract forms of art at a remarkably early age in American art. By this time, Dove was regarded as the first American artist to have created such purely nonrepresentational imagery.