Arthur Garfield Dove (August 2, 1880 – November 23, 1946) was an American artist. He was one of America's first abstract painters.
Dove was born to a wealthy family in Canandaigua, New York. As a child he was befriended by a neighbor named Newton Weatherby. Weatherby was a naturalist who helped form Dove’s appreciation of nature. He was also an amateur painter who gave Dove pieces of leftover canvas to work with.
At college he was chosen to illustrate the Cornell University yearbook. After graduation he became a well known commercial illustrator in New York City.
In 1907, Dove and his first wife traveled to France. While there he joined a group of experimental artists from the United States. One of these artists was Alfred Henry Maurer. Dove and Maurer remained friends until Maurer’s suicide in 1932. While in Europe, Dove was introduced to new painting styles, in particular the Fauve works of Henri Matisse, and he exhibited at the annual Autumn Salon in 1908 and 1909.
Dove returned to America in 1909 and met Alfred Stieglitz. Alfred Stiegltiz was a well known photographer and gallery owner who was very active in promoting modern art in America. Stieglitz was later the husband of the famed painter Georgia O’Keeffe. With Stiegltiz’s support, Dove produced what are known as the first purely abstract paintings to come out of America. Dove exhibited his works at Stieglitz's Gallery 291 in 1910 and in 1912. Dove's works were based in natural forms and he referred to his form of abstraction as "extraction," in essence, extracting the essential forms of a scene from a nature.
Dove used a wide range of media, sometimes in unconventional combinations. Dove did a series of experimental collage works in the 1920s. He also experimented with techniques, combining paints like hand mixed oil or tempera over a wax emulsion. The pigments from the paint then bond to the wax molecules.
In spite of support from various members of the art community, it was often necessary for Dove to earn money through farming, fishing and commercial illustration. Dove's most consistent supporter was Duncan Phillips, founder of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., which now holds the majority of Dove's work.
He spent a seven year period on a houseboat called Mona with second wife Helen Torr, known as "Reds" for the color of her hair. Torr was also a painter who has received much attention since her death in 1967.
Dove suffered a heart attack in 1939. His health never fully recovered. Arthur Dove died on November 23, 1946 following a second heart attack and kidney failure. In October of that same year, Dove wrote to Phillps for the last time:
"You have no idea what sending on those checks means to me at this time. After fighting for an idea all your life I realize that your backing has saved it for me and I meant to thank you with all my heart and soul for what you have done. It has been marvelous. So many letters have been written and not mailed and owing to having been in bed a great deal of time this summer, the paintings were about all I could muster up enough energy to do what I considered the best of my ability. Just before Stieglitz's death I took some paintings to him that I considered as having something new in them. He immediately walked right up to them and spoke of the new ideas. His intuition in that way was remarkable and I am so glad to have been allowed to live during his and your lifetimes. It has really been a great privilege for which I am truly thankful"