Born in Canandaigua, upstate New York, Arthur Dove (1880–1946) is credited as being the first innovative abstract painter in America. Many of his abstractions showed obvious Oriental influence and were derived from landscape and organic subjects with color used freely and calligraphic line emphasizing energy or force. Generally his method was to make watercolor sketches outdoors and later, oil paintings in his studio.
He also made assemblages from a variety of materials including aluminum, tin, copper, glass, wood, fabric, and found objects. Some were three dimensional like sculpture, and he was a meticulous craftsman.
In 1903, Dove traveled to Paris, where he met Alfred Maurer, who was to be his best friend for the remainder of his life, and through him moved in art circles that included Matisse, Picasso, and Cezanne. His style at that time was impressionist, but he and Maurer worked to reduce impressionism to larger areas of pure color in the manner of Matisse.
He returned to New York in 1909 and exhibited with Alfred Steiglitz’ Gallery 291 of avant-garde artists. The American public’s first exposure to Dove was in a 1912 exhibit at Gallery 291 and shocked many viewers who regarded him as a deranged modernist. Steiglitz friendship and encouragement proved extremely valuable to Dove who also moved in avant-garde art circles with John Sloan, William Glackens, Robert Henri, Alfred Maurer, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Although critics began to recognize his work, the public did not respond during his lifetime, and few of his works sold.
His cheerful personality was reflected in the tranquil mood of his work. He died of a heart attack in November, 1946.