14 in. x 23 in. (35.56 cm x 58.42 cm)
There was a long period of searching for something in color which I then called "condition of light." It applied to all objects in nature, flowers, trees, people, apples, cows. These all have their certain condition of light, which establishes them to the eye, to each other, and to the understanding.
To understand them clearly, go to nature, or to the Museum of Natural History and see the butterflies. Each has its own orange, blue, black; white, yellow, brown, green and black, all carefully chosen to fit the character of the life going on in that individual entity.1
While Dove's paintings were pervaded with luminosity from the beginning, by the time Autumn was painted in 1935, his yearning for the "condition of light" had mounted into an almost exclusive preoccupation. The organic forms that he distilled from the natural world into the increasingly reductivist abstractions of this period were all rendered in glowing colors that radiated a certain warmth and sensuality. Dove is generally credited as being the first artist to produce an abstract painting (his work of 1910 predates Kandinsky's nonobjective compositions by a year or so); however, he recoiled from the conscious, high-minded efforts of European artists to take such a breakthrough into the area of intellectual speculation. He arrived at abstraction through emotion, not by design or deliberation. Like his friend Georgia O'Keeffe, Dove was basically after recording a "sensation" or feeling, rather than theorizing about style and its ongoing permutations.
To many critics in the 1920s and the 1930s, Dove's intuitive response to nature and the sensual, frequently sexualized, imagery in his work were read as an embodiment of masculinity. Paul Rosenfeld, in particular, observed:
Dove's compositions are built up of abstract shapes that suggest the body's semi-consciousness of itself: of intestine-like shapes, shapes of fern-foetuses in May, animal udder-forms, forms in nature which doubtlessly had a fascination for a mind unafraid of its own consciousness. For Dove is very directly the man in painting.2
Elizabeth McCausland perpetuated this kind of interpretation, noting that Dove's work "lacks the fashionable note, the stylish touch .... He sees life as an epic drama, a great Nature myth, a fertility symbol."3 During the mid-1930s, the period in which Autumn was painted, the exuberant, tumescent, natural forms that had always defined the visual language of his work became quite phallic in content. The suggestive, heaving landscapes of earlier compositions, such as Drawing, 1913 (also in the collection of the Addison Gallery), were simplified into bold, sometimes elongated shapes pulsating with color. Autumn evokes the seething rhythm of nature, at the peak of its activity, through an abstraction of bulging landscape forms barely contained by dominant black outlines.
Dove, as Rosenfeld reveals, was cognizant of, perhaps even cultivated, the sexual implications of his work. In a letter of 1930 to his friend and lifelong dealer, Alfred Stieglitz, he wrote, "The bursting of a phallic symbol into white light may be the thing we all need."4 While this recommendation issued in part from what Dove perceived were the limitations of a prevailing, but alienated, art criticism that inscribed art solely from the vantage point of pictorial analysis and reason (the antipode of emotion), the idea was one that drove the entire corpus of his work. As O'Keeffe noted, "Dove is the only American painter who is of the earth . . . . Where I come from the earth means everything. Life depends on it. You pick it up and feel it in your hands."5
Debra Bricker Balken, Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, A Selective Catalogue (Andover, Massachusetts: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1996), p. 359
1. Arthur Dove to Samuel Kootz, quoted in Kootz, Modem American Painters (New York: Brewer and Warren, 1930), unpaginated.
2. Paul Rosenfeld, "Arthur G. Dove," in Port of New York (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1924), p. 170.
3. Elizabeth McCausland, "Dove's Oils, Watercolors Now at an American Place," Springfield (Massachusetts) Union and Republican 22 (April 1934), sec. E, p. 6.
4. Dove to Alfred Stieglitz, 4 December 1930, in Dear Stieglitz, Dear Dove, ed. Ann Lee Morgan (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1988), p. 202.
5. Quoted in Barbara Haskell, Arthur Dove (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1974), p. 118.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
- Edward W. Root Bequest Addison Gallery of American Art , 11/1/1957 - 11/18/1957
- Loan to Haverhill Public Library Haverhill Public Library , 12/10/1957 - 1/6/1958
- Loan to Bradford Junior College Bradford Junior College , 3/14/1960 - 4/11/1960
- Contemporary Arts in America Putney School , 4/28/1962 - 5/8/1962
- The American Still Life 1879-1979 Addison Gallery of American Art , 10/26/1979 - 12/12/1979
- The Split-Up: The Beginning of a New Art in America Addison Gallery of American Art , 3/13/1981 - 4/12/1981
- Edward W. Root, Collector and Teacher Fred L. Emerson Gallery , 10/2/1982 - 11/14/1982
- Landscapes from the Permanent Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/1/1983 - 5/1/1983
- American Masterworks Addison Gallery of American Art , 10/5/1990 - 12/16/1990
- American Abstraction at the Addison Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/18/1991 - 7/31/1991
- American Abstraction from the Addison Gallery of American Art American Federation of Arts , 2/27/1993 - 12/4/1994
- Andover Alumni Collectors Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/29/1995 - 7/30/1995
- Masterworks from the Permanent Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/5/1995 - 12/17/1995
- Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/13/1996 - 7/31/1996
- Arthur Dove: A Retrospective Exhibition The Phillips Collection , 9/20/1997 - 10/4/1998
- Framework: American Pictures and Frames Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/16/1999 - 4/4/1999
- Milk and Eggs: the Revival of Tempera Painting in America, 1930-1950 Brandywine River Museum of the Tri-County Conservancy , 3/9/2002 - 5/19/2002
- Conversations: A Collection in Dialogue Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/7/2003 - 7/31/2003
- Working from Nature Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/19/2003 - 1/4/2004
- Eye on the Collection: Early Abstraction Addison Gallery of American Art , 6/10/2005 - 7/31/2005
- Toward Abstraction Addison Gallery of American Art , 12/23/2005 - 3/26/2006
- 75 Years of Giving Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/11/2006 - 7/31/2006
- Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s American Federation of Arts , 9/9/2006 - 9/7/2009
- Mix and Match: A Conversation between Paintings and Works on Paper Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/23/2007 - 4/8/2007
- So Long, Farewell Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/7/2007 - 7/31/2007
- Inside, Outside, Upstairs, Downstairs: The Addison Anew Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/7/2010 - 3/27/2011
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/19/2013 - 3/10/2013
- Searching for the Real Addison Gallery of American Art , 5/30/2015 - 7/31/2015
- In Tandem: Inspirations and Collaborations Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/12/2015 - 1/3/2016
- Selections from the Permanent Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/30/2016 - 7/31/2016
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/1/2016 - 3/19/2017
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/1/2017 - 7/31/2018
- In and Out of Place Addison Gallery of American Art , 2/16/2019 - 7/31/2019
- Currents/Crosscurrents: American Art, 1850–1950 Addison Gallery of American Art , 10/16/2020 - 3/7/2021
- Learning to Look: The Addison at 90 Addison Gallery of American Art , 5/8/2021 - 2/6/2022
This object has the following bibliographic references:
Suzanne Mullett Smith Papers
Page Number: 2425, 2426
Ann Lee Morgan.
Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonne
University of Delaware Press.
Newark, DE, 1984
Page Number: p. 217, no. 35.1, Figure Number: illus., p. 219
- Jock Reynolds. American Abstraction at the Addison . Addison Gallery of American Art. Andover, MA, 1991
- Debra Balken. Arthur G. Dove Catalogue Raisonné . Yale University Press. 2015
- tests of Andover Inn reproductions . Palm Press, Inc.. 2010
- Brian T. Allen. Brian Allen's article on Modern American Art in Antiques Magazine . Brant Publications, Inc.. 3/2008
- press for Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s . American Federation of Arts.
- American Modernism (Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative/J. Paul Getty Trust) . National Gallery of Art. 2016
- A Wild Note of Longing: Albert Pinkham Ryder and a Century of American Art . New Bedford Whaling Museum.
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