Moon was painted during the fall of 1935 and depicts a tree covering the glowing moon. Arthur Dove lived and worked at his family home in Geneva, New York, from 1933 to 1938. His works from this period were influenced by the landscape and light of the Finger Lakes region, and are characterized by highly simplified compositions depicting subjects from nature, such as the sun, the moon, and tree trunks. Additionally, Dove’s study of Max Doerner’s recently translated Materials of the Artist led him to experiment with using resin oil color and wax to achieve what Doerner called “a misty, pleasingly dull and mat appearance, and great brightness and clarity.” Painted with short, thin, almost translucent brushstrokes over underlying hues of different intensities, Moon has a surface that seems almost to throb with luminosity and energy.
In the summer of 1933, after much hesitation, Arthur Dove moved back to his family home in Geneva, New York.
This entry is a revised version of text that was originally published in Bruce Robertson et al., Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection (Washington, DC, 1999).
Dove to Alfred Stieglitz, May 18, 1933, as quoted in Ann Lee Morgan, Dear Stieglitz, Dear Dove (Newark, DE, 1988), 271. See also Dove to Stieglitz, November 17, 1932 (Morgan, Dear Stieglitz, 253), when he wrote, acknowledging a check from Stieglitz: “‘Whew’! That was a close shave that time. Much! obliged. Almost spoiled a painting yesterday, but think it will come right when I go at it a bit more cheerfully today. When you get down, your mind begins having dialogues with itself while you're working. Like trying to establish a new form. And the old form bobs out and takes a crack at you and you say—To hell with form, it is just a medium of exchange, like money,—go on painting—but you need some.”
Dove’s years in Geneva from 1933 to 1938 would prove to be remarkably productive. Shortly before he returned, Duncan Phillips agreed to provide him with a monthly stipend in exchange for paintings.
For a full discussion of the relationship between Dove and his patron Duncan Phillips, see In the American Grain: Dove, Hartley, Marin, O'Keeffe, and Stieglitz (Washington, DC, 1995).
Dove to Stieglitz, December 19, 1934, October 1, 1935, and October 24, 1935, in Ann Lee Morgan, Dear Stieglitz, Dear Dove (Newark, DE, 1988), 322, 341, and 342.
Dove’s move to Geneva also coincided with a renewed interest in painting. Abandoning the extensive experimentation with collage that he had explored so fruitfully in the 1920s, he decided in February 1932 “to let go of everything and just try to make oil painting beautiful in itself with no further wish."
Dove to Stieglitz, February 1, 1932, in Ann Lee Morgan, Dear Stieglitz, Dear Dove (Newark, DE, 1988), 237.
Dove to Stieglitz, October 1, 1935, in Ann Lee Morgan, Dear Stieglitz, Dear Dove (Newark, DE, 1988), 341. For further discussion of this issue, see ibid., 210, and Elizabeth Hutton Turner, “Going Home: Geneva, 1933–1938,” in Debra Bricker Balken, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective (Cambridge, MA, 1997), 103–105.
Elizabeth Hutton Turner, “Going Home: Geneva, 1933–1938,” in Debra Bricker Balken, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective (Cambridge, MA, 1997), 104.
Along with Autumn
However, unlike Autumn, Naples Yellow Morning, or October, Moon, with its highly simplified composition, looks forward to works that Dove would create in Geneva in 1936 and 1937. During these years, spheres and columns, the sun, the moon, and tree trunks dominated his imagery as he sought to create a “definite rythmic [sic] sense.” He was not interested in “geometrical repetition,” but, by using “the play or spread or swing of space [that] can only be felt through this kind of consciousness,” he wanted to make his works “breathe as does the rest of nature.”
Dove to Elizabeth McCausland, May 3 or 13, 1933, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Elizabeth McCausland Papers, reel 03848.
McCausland, as quoted in Arthur Dove: New and Old Paintings, 1912–1934 (New York, 1934), 2. Brochure published in conjuction with the exhibition of the same name, shown at An American Place.
But Dove also strove for a more transcendent vision and to reveal the presence of the divine in the natural world. Moon, with its Redon-like, all-knowing eye and its tree that connects the terrestrial and celestial worlds, speaks both of his symbolist heritage and his then-current fascination with theosophy.
See Sherrye Cohn, “Arthur Dove and Theosophy: Visions of a Transcendental Reality,” Arts 58 (September 1983): 86–91.
September 29, 2016
lower center: Dove
Alfred Stieglitz [1864-1946], New York; (The Downtown Gallery, New York), by 1952; Mr. and Mrs. Max Zurier, Los Angeles, by 1957; (John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco); purchased July 1985 by Mr. and Mrs. Barney A. Ebsworth, St. Louis; gift 2000 to NGA.
Associated NamesEbsworth, Barney A.
- New Paintings by Arthur Dove, An American Place, New York, April-May 1936, checklist no. 16.
- Third Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November-December 1936, no. 11.
- Exhibition of New Arthur Dove Paintings, An American Place, New York, 1941, checklist no. 12.
- Arthur Dove, 1880-1946: Paintings, The Downtown Gallery, New York, April-May 1952, no. 9.
- Expressionism in American Painting, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, May-June 1952, no. 28, repro.
- Paintings and Watercolors by Arthur Dove, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1954, no. 11.
- American Paintings in This Century, University of California at Los Angeles, November-December 1956.
- The American Scene, Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, April-May 1956.
- Ten Paintings Selected From "New Art in America," The Downtown Gallery, New York, 1957, unnumbered checklist.
- Arthur G. Dove Retrospective Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Phillips Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute (now McNay Art Museum), San Antonio; Art Galleries of the University of California at Los Angeles; La Jolla Art Center; San Francisco Museum of Moderm Art, 1958-1959, no. 52, repro.
- Mr. and Mrs. Max Zurier Collection, Pasadena Art Museum, 1963, no. 23, repro. on cover.
- A View of the Century, Pasadena Art Museum, 1964, no. 47.
- Arthur Dove, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo; Saint Louis Art Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; Des Moines Art Center; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1974-1976, unnumbered catalogue, repro. (shown only in San Francisco).
- Paintings from the Zurier Collection, La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, 1976, no catalogue.
- 2 Jahrzehnte amerikanische Malerei 1920-1940, Städtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf; Kunsthaus, Zurich; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, 1979, no. 59, repro.
- A Mirror of Creation: 150 Years of American Nature Painting, Braccio di Carlo Magno, The Vatican; Terra Museum of Art, Evanston, Illinois, 1980-1981, no. 43, repro.
- Amerikanische Malerei 1930-1980, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1981-1982, no. 4, repro.
- The Zurier Collection: An Exhibition of 20th Century American and European Paintings and Works on Paper, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, 1984, no. 12, repro.
- The Ebsworth Collection: American Modernism, 1911-1947, Saint Louis Art Museum; Honolulu Academy of Arts; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1987-1988, no. 21, repro.
- Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1997-1998, no. 62, repro.
- Art for the Nation: Collecting for a New Century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000-2001, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Seattle Art Museum, 2000, no. 17, repro.
- Dove/O'Keeffe: Circles of Influence, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, 2009, pl. 58.
- The Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art, The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers; James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, 2019.
The unlined painting is composed of what is estimated to be oil paint on a loosely woven fabric support.
Dove’s materials can be difficult to identify because he often ground and prepared his own pigments.
- Baur, John, et al. New Art in America: Fifty Painters of the Twentieth Century. New York, 1957: 80, repro.
- Baur, John. "Art in America: Four Centuries of Painting and Sculpture at the Galaxon New York World's Fair." Art in America 50, no. 3 (Fall 1962): 46, 59, repro.
- Metzger, Robert. "Biomorphism in American Painting." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Los Angeles, 1973: 62-63.
- Morgan, Ann Lee. "Toward the Definition of Early Modernism in America: A Study of Arthur Dove." 2 vols. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1973: 70, 73, 195-196, 288-289, 528, no. 35.14, repro.
- Rosenblum, Robert. Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko. New York, 1975: 207, 228, no. 302, repro.
- Wight, Frederick. The Potent Image: Art in the Western World From Cave Painting to the 1970s. New York, 1976: 446, repro.
- Selz, Peter. Art in Our Times: A Pictorial History 1890-1980. New York, 1981: 324-325, no. 856, repro.
- Cohn, Sherrye. "The Image and the Imagination of Space in the Art of Arthur Dove; Part II: Dove and 'The Fourth Dimension'." Arts Magazine 58, no. 5 (January 1984): 121-125, fig. 3.
- "Moon." Art in America 72, no. 4 (April 1984): 6, repro.
- Morgan, Ann Lee. Arthur Dove: Life and Work, with a Catalogue Raisonné. Newark, London, and Toronto, 1984: 57, 232-234, no. 36.8.
- Cohn, Sherrye. Arthur Dove: Nature as Symbol. Ann Arbor, 1985: 16, 35, 67-68, 76, 78, 113, 121, fig. 5, repro.
- Balken, Debra Bricker, et al. Arthur Dove: A Retrospective. Andover, MA: Addison Gallery of American Art; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997, pp. 29, 94, 95, 105, 119, no. 62.
- Kimmelman, Michael. "Nature Stripped to Its Essence in Visionary Images." The New York Times (16 January 1998): E37.
- Updike, John. "Pioneer." New York Review of Books 45 (5 March 1998): 15.
- Robertson, Bruce, et al. Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Seattle Art Museum. Washington, 2000: no. 17, repro.
- Balken, Debra Bricker. Dove/O'Keeffe: Circles of Influence. Exh. cat. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, 2009: 63, pl. 58.
- DeLue, Rachael Ziady. Arthur Dove: Always Connect Chicago and London, 2016: 1, 16, 23, 44, 53, 105, 134, 184, 252.