Lot 32
  • 32

Arthur Garfield Dove 1880 - 1946

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
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  • Arthur Garfield Dove
  • Lattice and Awning
  • signed Dove (lower center)
  • oil on canvas
  • 22 by 36 inches
  • (55.9 by 91.5 cm)
  • Painted in 1941.


An American Place, New York
Dr. and Mrs. Clarence J. Bernstein, Greenlawn, New York
Terry Dintenfass Gallery, New York
Northeastern Private Collection, 1981 (sold: Sotheby’s, New York, May 27, 1992, lot 108, illustrated)
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale


New York, An American Place, New Arthur G. Dove Paintings, March-May 1941, no. 4
New York, An American Place, Arthur G. Dove; Paintings-1922-1944, May-June 1945, no. 2


Ann Lee Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, New Jersey, 1984, no. 41.8, pp. 62, 276-77, illustrated


According to Terrence Mahon, "The painting is in excellent condition. The canvas is unlined. Ultraviolet light reveals small restorations at the four corners and minor intermittent retouching at the edges. Within the design there is an approximately 3" horizontal line of inpainting in the dark form upper right of the signature. This appears to be mitigating a superficial scratch as there is no corresponding damage to the canvas. In addition, several very small spots of inpainting are scattered throughout the design, primarily in the upper right quadrant." To view Mr. Mahon's full report, please contact the American Art department at (212) 606-7280.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Debra Bricker Balken for preparing the following essay. Ms. Balken is an independent writer and curator who has worked extensively on American modernism.  She curated Arthur Dove, A Retrospective, which toured nationally in 1997 and 1998, and Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influences in 2009.

In 1938, Arthur Dove returned to his beloved Long Island Sound after a five year hiatus in Geneva, New York. There, in Centerport, a short distance from Huntington, he and his wife, Helen (Reds) Torr, purchased a simple, one room building with fourteen foot high ceilings that had once served as a post office and store (Fig.1). Sited on the edge of a tidal pond, this modest structure doubled as living and studio space. Yet for all its inherent plainness, Dove’s new home provided him with extraordinary views of the adjacent water and its abundant wildlife. As an artist whose subjects had always been given to capturing the ephemeral dimensions of nature – that is, the wind, rain, snow, fog, and light – Centerport represented an oasis, its shores, harbor and marsh grasses teaming with resplendent, ever-changing life.

Dove was exhausted by the move back to Long Island and his health quickly began to deteriorate. In 1939, he suffered a heart attack and was also diagnosed with a kidney condition, all of which cut into his productivity as an artist. That year he produced but three paintings, his output confined primarily to watercolors – a smaller, more manageable format. During his nearly year long period of convalescence, Dove began to seriously reassess his stake in modernist painting. He had long since been identified as the most radical of the artists associated with the circle of Alfred Stieglitz, his life-long dealer, patron and friend. As the first American to produce a wholly abstract painting around 1910/11 (Fig. 2), he had always been posed at the forefront of vanguard art, one for whom aesthetic risk was paramount. His goal was consistently directed, as he put it, towards “the elimination of the non-essential.”1 By that, Dove meant emptying his art of any reference to a recognizable object or figure. As he described his interests around 1914, “I gave up trying to express an idea by stating innumerable little facts, the statement of facts having nothing more to do with the art of painting than statistics with literature."2 In the natural world, with its rich variations of land and water that were constantly transformed by light, Dove found much to mine, a means to forgo the “facts” and to stretch the known languages of modernism.

By 1940, with his physical strength momentarily regained, Dove took to painting again with renewed enthusiasm. Yet, from this date on, he would remain a semi-invalid and require constant care from his doctor. He was bound to his little house and its environs in Centerport, alone with Reds and unable to make the trip into Manhattan unless driven by a neighbor or friend. Both Dove and Reds, however, were keen readers. They kept up with the trends in and discussions about contemporary art and the exhibitions at museums in New York through numerous publications, as well as through Dove’s correspondence with Stieglitz. Once his productivity resumed, he mentioned in a letter to Stieglitz in December, “the ones so far are very clear, clean-cut, and there is something new that I think worth fighting for.”3 Part of his work during this period became increasingly spare, “clean-cut”; his forms were frequently more geometric and crisply delineated. In short, they, along with his entire output, were more the outcome of his ruminations about modernist painting than his once direct observations of nature.

Dove’s painting, as of 1940 onward, never progressed in a neat, continuous fashion. Nor had it at any point during his career. If any feature can be read in the work associated with the last phase of his life, it was the realization of something that he called “pure” 4 painting. In the final stages, Dove not only eliminated the lingering traces of landscape elements and horizon lines in his compositions, but his surfaces became increasingly flattened and planar. Like Lattice and Awning, there was little hint of depth in his abstractions after 1940. His color was applied in sometimes broad, unmodulated passages that worked against any sense of illusion. Within this new aesthetic program, Dove’s paintings became limited to alternatively rectilinear and curvilinear shapes which were sometimes explored in combination.

Lattice and Awning emerged during this moment when Dove began to question the relevance of “facts” in art once again. As he thought about the conventions of representational painting, and its requirements for some degree of likeness, he continued to counter by reinvigorating his work with new invention and authority. For his annual exhibition in 1940 at An American Place, Stieglitz’s gallery on Madison Avenue,5 he wrote in the accompanying brochure that his current aim was “to weave the whole into a sequence of formations rather than to form an arrangement of facts.”6 (This was one of the few of his exhibitions at An American Place that Dove was actually able to travel into New York to see, a joy that he recounted in a subsequent letter to Stieglitz, where he added, “It is certainly a grand looking ‘Place,’ beautifully hung from one end to the other.”7 ) Implicit in his exhibition statement was a new way of handling of space, of side-stepping any suggestion of perspective in his painting while alluding to the shifting foregrounds and voids that characterize our perception of the landscape.

Dove thought that this “sequence of formations” could be accomplished by enhancing the overall graphic traits of his work – a feature that he had always called his “line motif.”8 This process had actually accelerated in the 1930s, part of which he spent reluctantly in upstate New York settling his family estate. (Dove grew up in rural Geneva where his father, who disapproved of his profession as an artist, had been a successful brick manufacturer and contractor.) It was over the span of a decade or so that his paintings became more simplified in format, where his references to the sun and the moon were more boldly and emphatically stated. Just like the late phase of his career in Centerport, this period was spent in relative isolation, where Dove, immersed in nature, continuously rethought his relationship to abstract painting.

In Lattice and Awning, the centralized yet meandering “line motif” animates the composition while offsetting areas that are alternatively patterned and undifferentiated. As a result, the painting is intentionally spatially ambiguous, its dynamic, fluid bands of color reinforcing the surface of the canvas. Dove had intermittently incorporated subjects that related to industry in his work as the early 1920s, such a gears, mowing and sewing machines or other man-made objects like lanterns and telegraph poles, as well as architectural forms such as watermills, silos, gas tanks and balls, or barns and grain elevators. 9 Unlike numerous artists who had depicted the machine in the first half of the twentieth century either as an emblem of modernity, or as an object of consumerist parody, Dove was more taken by its innate abstract beauty. In all of his paintings of the machine and of industrial architecture, nature still plays a transformative role, fusing these icons of progress with fugitive traits such as the wind, sun and the moon. After he moved back to Long Island in 1938, he continued to be drawn to structures from the built environment, such as a lighthouse in Lloyd Harbor, the Muellers Inn across the street, and especially the gabled roofs of a nearby Franciscan monastery, known as “The Brothers.” These accounted for some of the more reductive paintings that he produced during this period, their forms rendered as terse geometric statements. Lattice and Awning is also based on the interplay of two man-made structures, but here Dove was attracted less to their rectilinear design than to their interaction with the landscape. By contrast, they emerge more as biomorphic entities, with their warm, muted earth tones of varying shades of green and brown suggestive of the natural rather than manufactured world.

Lattice and Awning is an intricate rather than a spare painting, its “sequence of formations,” as Dove described them, spread out from a focal core. As such, they represent one side of the two directions that he pursued after 1940: an organic based abstraction that recapitulated his long-life connection with nature. During this period, Dove also increased the scale of his canvases, knowing that his abstract forms would have greater impact if enlarged. As he wrote in his diary after Lattice and Awning was completed, “People do not see small ones. Seem to want to get into them? Large ones give onlooker larger idea of himself. – Identification.”10 By identification, Dove meant some outlet for the viewer’s subjectivity, the declaration of his own self or interior life being his aim in his painting from the outset.

Lattice and Awning was exhibited in his show at An American Place in 1941 and later in 1945 when Stieglitz assembled an overview of Dove’s work. This was the last such project before their deaths the following year. By that point in time, Dove had long since been recognized as a mainstay in American art, his place as a great modernist innovator already situated. The “line motif” that he had continuously emphasized in his work was subsequently read by some interpreters as forecasting the gestural traits of Abstract Expressionism, the new movement that surfaced just as his life in Centerport was ending. 11 There are crossovers in terms of a common animated, spirited approach to a graphic line within painting. But he also stood apart.  As Elizabeth McCausland, a critic who was a passionate advocate of Dove’s work since the mid-1930s noted, his work “lacks the fashionable touch, the stylish touch...He sees life as an epic drama, a great Nature myth.” 12

1.  Arthur Dove, “291,” Camera Work, no. 47 (July 1914), 37.
2.  Arthur Dove, undated letter to Arthur Jerome Eddy, published in Eddy, Cubists and Post-Impressionism (Chicago: A.C.. McClurg, 1914), 48.
3.  Arthur Dove to Alfred Stieglitz, December 1940; published in Dear Stieglitz, Dear Dove, ed. Ann Lee Morgan (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1988), 451.
4.  Arthur Dove, Diary, December 17, 1942. Arthur Dove and Helen Torr Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
5.  Alfred Stieglitz had three galleries during his lifetime. The first, his ‘291' was named for its location on Fifth Avenue and operated from 1905 until it folded in 1917. He resurfaced as a dealer in 1925 with The Intimate Gallery. His last and final venture was An American Place. Dove’s work was a constant feature of his exhibition program from 1912 onwards. In fact, he became of his triumvirate of artists, including John Marin and Georgia O’Keeffe, to whom Stieglitz remained dedicated until his death in 1946.
6. Arthur Dove, “Statement,” Arthur G. Dove, Exhibition of New Oils and Watercolors. exh. brochure (New York: An American Place, 1940), n.p.
7.  Arthur Dove to Alfred Stieglitz, May 10, 1940; in Dear Stieglitz, Dear Dove, 442.
8.  Dove, in Eddy.
9.  For a discussion of Dove’s engagement of industrialized forms, see Debra  Bricker Balken, “Continuities and Digressions in the Work of Arthur Dove from 1907 to 1933,” in Balken, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, exh. cat. (Andover, Massachusetts: Addison  Gallery of American Art and Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1997), 29 - 30.
10.  Arthur Dove, Diary, August 5, 1962.
11.  There have been numerous, ongoing analogies between Dove’s late painting and the New York School. For a list of early critics who saw these connections, cf. Ann Lee Morgan, “The Art of Arthur Dove,” in Morgan, Arthur Dove, Life and Work with a Catalogue Raisonné (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1984), 72, note 77.
12.  Elizabeth McCausland, “Dove’s Oils, Water Colors Now at American Place,” Springfield (Mass.) Union and Republican, April 22, 1934, sec. E, 6.