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Snow and Water

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Snow and Water

oil on aluminum
20 in. x 27 1/2 in. (50.8 cm x 69.85 cm)
Gift of Paul and Hazel Strand, 1975.22

Arthur Garfield Dove

An important figure in the history of modern art in the United States, Arthur Garfield Dove was among the first to paint in an entirely abstract mode. Born to upper-middle-class parents in Canandaigua, New York, the artist spent much of his childhood in nearby Geneva. After graduating from Cornell University in 1903, Dove went to New York City, where he hoped to work as a freelance illustrator. His talents found a ready market among magazine publishers and until about 1930, Dove relied on illustration as his principal means of support.

In 1908 Dove set out on a painting trip to France and Italy. There he met painter Alfred Maurer (1868-1932), who in turn introduced Dove to Alfred Stieglitz (q.v.), the noted photographer and promoter of modern art. Stieglitz admired Dove's expressive renditions of natural forms, and in 1912 he gave the artist his first one-person show. However, like most early American modernists, Dove gained recognition belatedly. He sold his first painting only in 1926, and it was not until the 1930s that he began to attract serious attention from critics and curators. Included in several surveys of contemporary modern art during the decade, Dove was given his first one-person museum show in 1933 at the Springfield, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts. A more comprehensive retrospective followed at the D. C. Phillips Memorial Gallery in Washington, DC, in 1937. By that time Dove had begun to suffer the combined effects of a heart condition and Bright's disease. The artist died in Huntington, Long Island, in 1946.

Typical of Dove's compositions, Snow and Water is an abstract image that hovers on the edge of representation. In much of his art, Dove began with his observations of nature, transforming them into a personal language of symbols and poetically suggestive forms. Here, rounded, domelike shapes suggest storm clouds while a wavy band of blue along the lower edge of the panel evokes a wind-whipped sea. More open to interpretation are the rectilinear and triangular forms that cluster around the ostensible "horizon." Rocks, buildings, or perhaps boats, their indeterminate quality allows the viewer free rein in determining the ultimate meaning of the painting.

Snow and Water is unusual in that it is painted on an aluminum panel. During the 1920s Dove experimented with a variety of materials, not only as supports for his paintings but in collagelike assemblages that he referred to as "things." In both paintings and assemblages, Dove resorted to scored metal sheets to give added luster and texture to his compositions. In Snow and Water the artist allowed the aluminum to show through the paint in certain areas, notably along the edges of the cloud forms. In what may be a touch of understated humor, the glint of aluminum circumscribing the rounded forms acts as a bluntly literal "silver lining" in Dove's otherwise abstract image. At the same time, aluminum itself was a "modern" material well suited to the contemporary cast of Dove's art. Employed in automobiles, airplanes, dirigibles, and other twentieth-century machines, aluminum embodied what Dove admired as the American qualities of "inventiveness, restlessness, speed, change."(1) Its subtle presence in Dove's painting emphasizes modernity despite the artist's invocation of traditional landscape and marine elements.

Snow and Water is one of several important early American modernist works presented to the Currier Museum of Art by photographer Paul Strand (q.v.) and his wife, Hazel. Others include Marsden Hartley's Raptus (q.v.) and a watercolor by John Marin, Five Islands, Stonington (q.v.).



1. Arthur G. Dove, quoted in Barbara Haskell, Arthur Dove, ex. cat. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1974, p. 44.


Debra Bricker Balken in collaboration with William C. Agee and Elizabeth Hutton Turner. Arthur Dove: A Retrospective. Ex. cat. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, 1997.

Barbara Haskell. Arthur Dove. Ex. cat. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1974.

Frederick S. Wight. Arthur G. Dove. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1958.

1974 Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, "American Art Since 1914." June 15 - Sept. 8.

1974-1976 "Arthur Dove." Organized by the San Francisco Museum of Art. Traveled to: San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA, Nov. 20, 1974 - Jan. 5, 1975; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, Jan. 27 - March 2, 1975; St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO, April 3 - May 25, 1975; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, July 9 - Aug. 31, 1975; Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA, Sept. 22 - Nov. 2, 1975; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, Nov. 22, 1975 - Jan. 18, 1976.

1986 Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, "Winter." Feb. 1 - March 16.

2010 Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, "From Homer to Hopper: American Watercolor Masterworks from the Currier Museum of Art." March 6 - June 7.

Paul and Hazel Strand
Gift to Currier Gallery of Art, 1975

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