Arthur Dove had lived on a houseboat in the Harlem River, a yawl on Long Island Sound, and in 1938 when he painted "Motor Boat," he was residing at the northern end of Seneca Lake in Geneva, New York. Inspired by his surroundings, Arthur Dove used water as a recurring motif in his oeuvre...
Arthur Dove had lived on a houseboat in the Harlem River, a yawl on Long Island Sound, and in 1938 when he painted "Motor Boat," he was residing at the northern end of Seneca Lake in Geneva, New York. Inspired by his surroundings, Arthur Dove used water as a recurring motif in his oeuvre throughout his career - from early work including the pastel "Yachting" [1990.400] and the collage "The Sea I" [1990.404], to later paintings such as "Sun on the Lake"[1990.372] and "Square on the Pond" [1990.372], all mostly pure landscapes. "Motor Boat" is unusual for the inclusion of the powered vessel featured prominently in the composition. "Motor Boat" may be seen as both observed reality and as an abstract composition exploring form and color. Dove provided a clue that helps to identify the simplified prow of the craft of the title: the whimsical anchor-like shape in the center establishes a link to the visual world that otherwise would be more difficult to discern. Thus we see a boat speeding through the water, waves splashing up on either side. Buildings and trees line the distant shore. At the same time, Dove flattened space and played rhythmic shapes off one another creating an overall pattern-jagged trees and prow, undulating hills and waves. He explored a limited range of hues, but carefully varied them. For example, the different blues enhance each other and serve to unify the composition from top to bottom. The image is both subtle and complex. Along with "Tanks" [1990.409] and "Sun on the Lake [1990.372]," "Motor Boat" was first exhibited at An American Place in 1938 in the annual monographic show that gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz gave Dove. Throughout his career, Dove's innovative approach to abstraction and representation had limited appeal to the public and, like much of his oeuvre, none of these paintings sold. In the 1950s, however, collector William H. Lane was attracted to these very challenges, and he acquired over forty of Dove's works in all media. In a 1983 interview Lane remarked about Dove, "of all our artists he's the man who was still ahead of his time." Karen Quinn
Lower center: Dove
The artist; with Downtown Gallery, New York; to William H. Lane Foundation, 1956; to MFA, 1990, gift of the William H. Lane Foundation.
Gift of the William H. Lane Foundation
© Estate of Arthur G. Dove