Nature and the Abstract

Even as Dove and O'Keeffe were becoming fixtures of the New York art world, both artists spent significant time outside the city. Having been raised in Geneva, New York, Dove never cared for the hubbub of urban life. He worked as a farmer and illustrator in Westport, Connecticut, during the 1910s, and throughout the 1920s, he toured Long Island Sound with his second wife, the artist Helen Torr, aboard the Mona, the sailboat on which they lived. After 1918, O'Keeffe spent her summers with Stieglitz at his estate on Lake George in upstate New York, often extending her stay into autumn. During these Adirondack sojourns, O'Keeffe befriended several of the New York-based critics and artists who were frequent visitors to their home.

All the while, both artists continued to paint. Inspired by their emotional connections to the sun, moon, water, and landscape, they made abstract works that were increasingly experimental in their use of color and form. The interest they shared in representing fleeting natural phenomena, such as light and sound, made for striking correspondences among their pictures.

Despite spending long periods away from the city, Dove and O'Keeffe continued to attract acclaim from New York's art critics. Theorists debating the merits of abstract art considered them the leading practitioners of modern American painting well into the 1930s. The two artists stayed attuned to each other's successes through Stieglitz, who regularly exhibited their work at his New York galleries, and maintained a lifelong correspondence with Dove.

Arthur Dove, "Sunrise," 1924. Oil on panel. Milwaukee Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Edward R. Wehr [Courtesy of and copyright The Estate of Arthur Dove / Courtesy Terry Dintenfass, Inc.; Photo by John R. Glembin]
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