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Art has always been one of the most important media used by humans to better understand and interpret the surrounding world and their role in it. However, until the twentieth century humanity was more interested in representational art showing real objects. Abstract art existed even in ancient cultures, but it experienced new unprecedented development in the first half of the twentieth century. This essay explores the nature of American abstract art and studies the main aspects of Arthur Dove's oeuvre as one of the most influential artists of this movement in the USA.
The European artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, and others were pioneers of abstract art. They revolutionized artistic circles in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, during this period American art was still mostly romantic in its nature. Later the abstract ideas began to come to the USA from Europe, and American artists were quite enthusiastic about these new tendencies.The 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York was the first time when European and American abstract painters exhibited their works together in the USA (DeLue, 2016). This event gave a huge boost to the development of abstract art in America. The next important stage of abstract art development was the emergence of abstract expressionism in the 1940s and the 1950s. This artistic movement embraced painters of very different styles and ideologies, but all of them were devoted to rendering emotions with the help of abstract forms. This art can be called distinctly American because such painters as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and others managed to create a new revolutionary approach to abstract art peculiar to the USA.
Arthur Dove was one of the pioneers of American abstract art. He created his first works at the beginning of the 1910s when this movement was still developing at a very slow pace in America. His interest in abstract art can be partially explained by the fact that he lived in Europe for some time and was well acquainted with new tendencies that were popular there. He had some exhibitions in Paris with other American artists such as Max Weber and others (DeLue, 2016). In 1913, he created a work titled Sentimental Music (pastel on paperboard). At the first stages of his career, he was to a certain extent influenced by French modernism, and this work reflects all the principles of European abstract art. While creating Sentimental Music, he also introduced some new concepts that were not often referred to in Europe. This painting deals not only with the impact of abstract forms on the perception of the viewer but also explores the notion of synaesthesia that was crucial to Arthur Dove, Georgia O'Keeffe, and other American artists (Balken, 2009). These artists tried to analyze the connection between different human senses and paid much attention to the studies of their interconnections. Lines and a specific palette play the most important role in this painting. They create a strong rhythm that can be associated with some melody. This painting is a very innovative and creative interpretation of the connection between art and music. Sentimental Music is also an attempt to prove that specific combination of visual elements can cause the same feelings and emotions as the sounds of music (Murphy, 2007).
Another important theme in Arthur Dove's works is the role of nature in the age when machines and mechanisms drew so much attention of both the public and artists. Arthur Dove never openly criticized urbanism in his works, but at the same time it is clear that he was more interested in nature and its relations with humans than in the new and fast-growing urban world. Dove created many works that use abstraction to interpret and analyze the elements of the natural world. Among them there are such prominent and thought-provoking paintings as Cow (1912) and Storm Clouds (1935). At first, these works made me puzzled as I could not correlate their titles with the things that the artist painted. However, later the information I learned about abstract art helped me to understand that while analyzing these paintings I should not apply the same criteria used for evaluating representational art. The paintings of Arthur Dove taught me to let my mind "roam freely" and rely on subconscious processes rather than on the logical interpretation of the work of art. I was especially impressed with Storm Clouds. When I read the title, I tried to find some landscape elements here, but it turned out that Dove saw nature more like a certain anthropomorphic creature because the eye in the center of the painting is obviously very similar to a human eye. This idea was very interesting, and I came to the conclusion that the weather in the painting was a metaphoric representation of emotions of nature as if it was a living creature.
To conclude, the works of Arthur Dove are crucial to the development of American abstract art. He played an important role during the period of this movement formation and greatly influenced the style of abstract expressionists in the middle of the twentieth century. Dove used various abstract elements to study such themes as the interaction of human senses and the meaning of nature. His paintings combine elements borrowed from European abstraction and purely American ideas.