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Arthur Dove

Born: 1880, Canandaigua, New York, United States of America
Died: 1946, Huntington, New York, United States of America

Boat Going through Inlet
c. 1929

Oil on tin
Image: 20 1/8 × 28 1/4 in. (51.1 × 71.8 cm)
Overall (with environmental vitrine): 26 9/16 × 34 7/8 × 3 in. (67.5 × 88.6 × 7.6 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2015.6
Signed: Lower right: Dove
Artist Name: []


An early modern artist, Arthur Dove was first and foremost a painter of nature and the environment around him. An abstract rendering of rolling waves of water, mist, clouds, and light, Boat Going Through Inlet reveals Dove’s ability to create loosely-assembled forms imbued with the spirit of the natural world.

Painted in 1929, Boat Going Through Inlet is composed of undulating lines and gauzy coats of paint layered one over another, forming shapes that symbolize rather than depict a boat floating on moving water. Dove was famous for his opposition to the term “abstract painting,” preferring to see his works as “extractions,” in which he presented the purest form of a scene in nature, distilling it down to its most essential lines and masses. In Boat Going Through Inlet, he uses his extracted forms to capture the force of water and wind on this small vessel.

Dove lived a peripatetic life along the waters of the Long Island Sound, even living aboard a yacht for some time with his second wife, artist Helen Torr. Long fascinated by the water, he wrote in 1927: “I should like to take wind and water and sand as a motif and work with them, but it has to be simplified in most cases to color and force lines and substances…,” adding, “When mariners say ‘the wind has weight,’ a line seems to express that better than bulk.” Dove’s intimate knowledge of the sea is clear in Boat Going Through Inlet, while his treatment of the atmospherics of mist and vapor give expression to the weight of the wind as it wafts across the boat’s deck. Even the lines of the masts serve this objective, drawing attention to the parallel waves of sky and sea, while the moon hangs as a counterweight in the lower half of the painting, a pendant to the sketched-out sails that disappear into the cloudy horizon as they fill with air.

Opposed to what he saw as the growing commercialism and materialism of American culture in the first quarter of the twentieth century, Dove maintained an emotional and spiritual relationship with nature expressed through the tangible record of his work. Boat Going Through Inlet, is painted on tin, and across its surface scored lines cut through the layers of paint to reveal the metal beneath. This incised technique creates a shimmering effect that recalls nothing more than the ghostly sheen of moonlight reflecting off waves and mist, conveying through medium and color Dove’s emotional response to the natural world.

Dove exhibited Boat Going Through Inlet in a solo show at the photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz’s famed An American Place Gallery in 1930.

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The artist
Arthur Dove Estate, 1946
The Downtown Gallery, New York, New York (dealer)
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Titelman, Pennsylvania, 1965
Private collection, United States, 1982, (acquired from Ira Spanierman, Inc., New York, New York)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago Illinois, 2015 (acquired from Christie's New York, New York, May 21, 2015, lot 6)

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Exhibition History

Arthur G. Dove, An American Place, New York, New York (organizer). Venues: An American Place, New York, New York, March 22‒April 22, 1930. [exh. cat.]

Paintings by Arthur Dove, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California (organizer). Venues: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, April 22‒May 19, 1947.

Arthur G. Dove, Charles Sheeler, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas (organizer). Venues: Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas, January 7‒23, 1951, no. 3 (as Ship Coming Thru Inlet). [exh. cat.]

Vintage Moderns, American Pioneer Artists: 1903‒1932, The New Gallery, Iowa City, Iowa (organizer). Venues: The New Gallery, Iowa City, Iowa, May 24‒August 2, 1962. [exh. cat.]

Forerunners of American Abstraction, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (organizer). Venues: Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 18, 1971‒ January 9, 1973, no. 25 (as Going thro’ Inlet). [exh. cat.]

America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper, Terra Foundation for American Art and the Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Oxford, UK (organizers.) Venue: Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Oxford, UK, March 23, 2018–July 22, 2018 [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Arthur G. Dove, (exh. cat., An American Place). New York: An American Place, 1930. Text (checklist), cat. no. 8.

Arthur G. Dove, Charles Sheeler, (exh. cat., Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston). Houston, Texas: Contemporary Arts Museum, 1951. Text (checklist), cat. no. 3 (as Ship Coming Thru Inlet).

Vintage Moderns, American Pioneer Artists: 1903‒1932, (exh. cat., The New Gallery, Iowa City, Iowa). Iowa City, Iowa: The University of Iowa, 1962. Text p. 12 (checklist, no. 20); ill. p. 12, no. 20 (black & white).

Forerunners of American Abstraction, (exh. cat. Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, 1971. Text, cat. no. 25 (as Going thro' Inlet).

Morgan, Ann Lee. Toward the Definition of Early Modernism in America: A Study of Arthur Dove. PhD dissertation, The University of Iowa, 1973. Text p. xi, no. 30.3 (list of illustrations); ill. p. 501, fig. 30.3 (black & white).

Morgan, Ann Lee. Arthur Dove: Life and Work, with a Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 1984. Text p. 179, cat. no. 30.3. Ill. p. 180 (black & white).

Christie’s, New York, New York (Sale JOSEPHINE-3744, May 21, 2015): lot 6. Ill. lot 6 (color).

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