Dove in Geneva

The picture above is one of the few surviving which provides us with a record of the critical paintings Arthur Dove created while living on the third floor of The Dove Block in 1937-38. Working daily, as he conceived and developed a painting, Dove would hang it on the third floor’s south wall, after which, as was his want, he would move from painting to painting until he finished it to his satisfaction. Virtually all these paintings can be identified and all of those which can now hang in major museums and galleries throughout the United States.

GUEST APPEARANCE – Dove’s Geneva: A Review
By Jim Spates August 19th, 2018

Over the course of Geneva’s long history, he was and arguably remains its most famous citizen. Yet few of us know much about him. His father, William, owner of a local brick making factory, moved his family to North Main Street when he was 2. He spent the first two years of his college career at Hobart College before receiving his bachelor’s degree at Cornell. He moved to New York City where he became an ever-increasingly-in-demand illustrator for newspapers and magazines, such as the Saturday Review. In 1908, he and his wife, the former Florence Dorsey of Geneva, moved to France so he could study the new paintings being created by young artists with names like Pablo Picasso and Henri

Back in New York City, he became the first American to work in the modernist tradition (illustrating became a sideline). Over the next two decades, his reputation as a major voice in American art grew. In the early 1930s he moved back to Geneva with his new wife, Helen Torr (the marriage to Florence ended in divorce) so that, working with his brother, Paul, he might help settle the family estate. Here he lived for the next half decade, during which he created at least a hundred of his most acclaimed works, most based on subjects he saw in Geneva or the surrounding area — Oaks Corners, Phelps, Seneca Lake, the Canandaigua Outlet, others.

For nearly two years of that half decade, he and Helen lived on the third floor of the Dove Block on the corner of Castle and Exchanges streets, the city’s main intersection. He would rise early in the morning and walk about the city and lake shore, looking carefully, absorbing new ideas for paintings. In 1938, he and Helen returned downstate to live on Long Island. There he kept painting until his death in 1946.

Since his passing, his reputation as one of the most important painters of the American 20th century has only grown. His works are among the prized possessions of almost every major museum in this country, including The Metropolitan and Whitney Museums in New York, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Smithsonian Museum, The Phillips Collection, and The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. His dear friend, Georgia O’Keeffe, reflecting on her own storied career, said that it was Arthur Dove who had given her her start, who had showed her how modern art “worked.” And yet, despite all this celebrity, we Genevans know little of him.

Happily, to help in rectifying the gap, the Geneva Historical Society has opened a new exhibit, “Dove’s Geneva.” It is a fine retrospective put together by GHS Curator, John Marks. As a result of Paul Dove’s generosity, the historical society has its own collection of original Arthur Dove works, including some of his best illustrations. Many are on display at the exhibit, along with informative display boards telling the story of the Geneva Arthur Dove grew up in and returned to.

As we make our way around the room, we learn of the profound effect which Newton Weatherly, a Geneva neighbor, had on the growing boy’s love of nature and the city, see displayed a number of Dove’s lovely illustrations, and one of his famed abstract paintings.

Marks has created two special books to enhance the viewer’s experience — a collection of articles about Dove from major magazines and newspapers commenting on the importance of his work as long ago as the 1930s and 1940s; included as well are some recollections by brother Paul informing us about the Dove family brickmaking business and the significance of Arthur’s paintings.

The second collection includes reproductions of many of the watercolors Dove made of Geneva and thelocal region during the 1930s when he lived here. Viewing these, the visitor learns how deeply Dove was affected by his life in this area — an insight which, by the way, many fine art enthusiasts of today have yet to have.

It is an excellent exhibit which makes it clear to Genevans, Finger Lakes residents, and visitors of any type, why Arthur Dove, the internationally acclaimed 20th-century American artist is Geneva’s most famous native son, a fact it is time to acknowledge and proclaim loudly. Don’t miss the chance to see this exhibit.