Ryder and Dove: Spiritual Ancestors

Arthur G. Dove, Golden Storm, 1925. Oil and metallic paint on plywood panel, 18 9/16 x 20 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1926

Golden Storm was painted on Arthur dove’s boat in Huntington Harbor, Long Island, and is one of the earliest Dove paintings to enter The Phillips Collection. It represents Dove at the beginning of his mature style. The small scale of the work, the result of limited working space, does not detract from the immense power of the painting, capturing the movement of the water and freezing it into abstract, timeless patterns. This work, in its successful evocation of the inner vitality of nature, constitutes the culmination of formative influences in Dove’s development, including trends in European modernist art, especially Wassily Kandinsky’s notion of spirituality.

Albert Pinkham Ryder, Moonlit Cove, 1880s. Oil on canvas, 14 1/8 x 17 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1924

Duncan Phillips’s acquisition of Golden Storm in 1926 represented a breakthrough for the collector in his growing acceptance of abstract form and expressive color as evocations of nature’s underlying dynamism. He admired Golden Storm as a “symphonic tone-poem on earth shapes whirled in the maelstrom.” He compared the painting to the art of Albert Pinkham Ryder, whom he considered Dove’s “spiritual ancestor,” not only in his reduction of nature’s forms to their purest elements, but also in his experimental techniques and choice of medium. Phillips also recognized a spiritual element in this early work of Dove’s in stating, “When there is a hint of great things going on in the mind of the artist and of his consciousness of the rhythm of the universe, abstract art ceases to be an amusement for the aesthete and becomes a divine activity.”

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  1. Greetings left a note of interest here. Throughout his work, Gabino Amaya Cacho strongly adhered to the “scientific approach” of color theorists, since he believed that a painter could use the tones to create harmony and emotion within the Art in the same way in which a musician uses counterpoint and variations to create harmonies in music. According to Seurat, knowing the laws of perception and optics would enable a new language of art to be more easily created. He devoted himself to demonstrating the language he called “chromoluminarism” through lines, various intensities and color schemes within his works.

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