Teaching with Contemporary Art

Dove and O’Keeffe… Get ‘Em While It’s Hot

Arthur Dove, "Sunrise", 1924, oil on panel

Arthur Dove, "Sunrise", 1924, oil on panel

There are many reasons that educators want to visit the Circles of Influence exhibit featuring Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keeffe at The Clark Art Institute through September 7th, but one of the biggest for me was seeing these two artists side by side in the same galleries and learning about how they influenced one another throughout their careers.

Beginning in 1914 with O’Keeffe seeing Dove’s pastels for the first time and then being introduced to the artist four years later, the two shared a close examination of the landscape inspired by their own emotional responses to it. Neither had a desire to paint or draw the landscape “realistically”, nor did they have notions about obliterating any references to nature. Instead, they used color, shape, and even sounds to jump-start their work. And while they admired one another and stayed updated on each other’s successes, they allowed the art to do the talking…. and the influencing.

Georgia O’Keeffe was quoted as saying that Arthur Dove was her primary introduction to modern art. Her early watercolors and charcoal drawings were a response to the Dove pastels she experienced in person. Dove, on the other hand, went back to the early watercolors of O’Keeffe later in his career to create some of his most beautiful abstract compositions.

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Sunrise", 1916, watercolor

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Sunrise", 1916, watercolor

Looking at these drawings and paintings hanging side by side a few weeks ago, I thought about the delicate balance some of my students, not to mention myself, often look for in our own compositions. It’s a wonderful show to examine how strong composition can make a simple gesture complete. I also thought about how influence is often a one-way street, and when it comes to art, artists are often influenced by other artists and the story ends there. In this case, a true circle is formed between Dove and O’Keeffe as they examined each other’s work over time and allowed that breadth of learning to shape their progress.

See this exhibit if you have the chance!


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  2. Nate Morgan says:

    dove is one of my alltime favorites!!!

  3. Joe Fusaro says:

    This is worth it…. Go see the show!

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