Arthur Garfield Dove (American, 1880-1946)

Currently on View in K203
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  • The circular shapes, organic forms, and feathered brushwork of this canvas exemplify Dove’s imaginative, emotional response to nature—the sun, clouds, and land of his surroundings. In 1910 he was among the first American artists to create purely abstract works.
  • Known for his humor and whimsy, Dove once suggested that the “reflections” cited in the title were those created by the headlights of a passing automobile on a windshield.
  • With Georgia O’Keeffe and John Marin, Dove was a key member of the modernist painters group championed by art dealer Alfred Stieglitz.
Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Arthur Dove is the first American artist known to have painted an abstract work of art, in 1910. His bold approach, which emphasized a personal, emotional response to nature, brought him to the attention of the photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz. Together with John Marin and Georgia O'Keeffe, Dove was a core member of the Stieglitz Group, a small circle of American artists dedicated to modernism. They regularly exhibited at Stieglitz's New York City galleries, including 291 Gallery and, later, An American Place. A broad similarity exists between Dove and the Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky. Both artists tried to translate the rhythm and harmony of music into visual art, using color to express sound.

Painted during the period when Dove was abandoning representation altogether, Reflections contains all the elements characteristic of his work. The abstract composition incorporates the whimsical elements, circular shapes, organic forms, and feathered brushstrokes typical of his best canvases. The sun and moon, often depicted with wit and humor, were prominent themes in Dove's work. Reflections can be interpreted in a straightforward way as a landscape with sun, clouds, grass, and trees. But a note written by Dove implies a second, more playful interpretation. Referring to this painting Dove wrote: ""Reflections (from headlight in car),"" suggesting it can also be seen as the afterimage created by the headlights of a passing automobile.

To make [an image] breathe as does the rest of Nature it must have a basic rhythm.
-Arthur Dove, 1933
Curatorial Summary

Arthur Dove was born in Canandaigua, New York, and moved with his family to Geneva, New York. He began experimenting with painting as a child, but followed his parents’ desire and started pre-law courses at Cornell University, enrolling in art courses on the side. Encouraged by Ashcan School artists John Sloan and William Glackens, Dove spent more than a year in Europe. When he returned to New York, he was introduced to his future dealer and lifetime advisor Alfred Stieglitz. Dove made his home on a farm in Westport, Connecticut, and established himself as one of the first artists working in abstraction.

Dove’s goal was to represent nature in a very personal way, capturing its essences and nuances in an abstract manner. He moved with his future wife and fellow artist Helen Torr to a houseboat docked at various locations on the Harlem River and Long Island Sound between 1924 and 1933. During these years his work focused on his environment and included boats, barges, and docks and expressed his interest in machine imagery and assemblages. For five years he lived on his family’s farm in Geneva where his subjects changed to the rural environment that he captured in browns, greens, and ochres. Dove painted abstractions that also focused on the effects of weather and continued to paint his impressions of nature throughout his career. Those impressions inspired fellow Stieglitz Circle artists Georgia O’Keeffe to call Dove “the only American painter who is of the earth.”


Balken, Debra Bricker, William C. Agee, and Elizabeth Hutton Turner. Arthur Dove: A Retrospective. Andover, MA: Addison Gallery of American Art; Washington, DC: Phillips Collection, 1997.

The artist; Alfred Stieglitz, New York, New York; The Downtown Gallery, New York, New York; collection of Mr. and Mrs. Denman Bellevue, Washington; private collection; corporate collection; (Alexandre Gallery, New York, New York); purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2003.

Object Information

Arthur Garfield Dove (American, 1880-1946)
creation date
oil on canvas
15-1/8 x 21-1/16 in. (canvas)
17-7/16 x 23-7/16 x 1-13/16 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed in oil at lower center: Dove
accession number
credit line
Caroline Marmon Fesler Fund
© The Estate of Arthur Garfield Dove
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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