Happy birthday Arthur Dove!

Today we celebrate the birthday of Arthur Dove (1880–1946), one of modern art’s earliest abstract painters and probably the first American artist to paint a totally abstract canvas.

Over the course of his career, Dove worked in a variety of media, including pastel, watercolor, and collage. He also created assemblages. Goin’ Fishin’ (1925), for example, includes bits of bamboo, denim, and other materials.


Arthur Dove’s attempt to render sounds as colors and shapes makes his 1929 painting “Fog Horns” descriptive and abstract at the same time. Art © The Estate of Arthur G. Dove/Terry Dintenfass, Inc.

Between 1920 and 1933, Dove lived on a houseboat moored off Manhattan and then on a yawl that cruised Long Island Sound and moored in its harbors during the winter. Fog Horns (1929), the oil painting reproduced on the Modern Art in America stamp sheet, suggests the peal of foghorns at sea. Dove was interested in synesthesia, the phenomenon of stimulating one sense by means of another, and attempted to portray sound in this work. The painting’s gray background suggests the ocean without depicting it in realistic terms, while concentric rings of paint grow progressively lighter as they emanate outward from the center, conjuring foghorns blaring in the mist.

The Modern Art in America stamp sheet, which was released on March 7, is currently available online, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and in Post Offices nationwide.

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