Sunrise in Northport Harbor
Sunrise in Northport Harbor
Dove, Arthur G.
Oil on metal
20 x 28 in.
Wichita Art Museum, Roland P. Murdock Collection
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
In 1921, Arthur Dove left his wife to live with Helen “Reds” Torr, a fellow artist he met through mutual friends in Westport, Connecticut. That year, Dove and Torr took residence on a houseboat moored off upper Manhattan. Late in 1922, Dove bought a forty-two-foot yawl, the Mona, which became their residence for many years to come. The couple moved to a mooring on the north shore of Long Island in the summer of 1924. Despite their tiny living space (which also served as their studio), the demanding upkeep of the Mona, and the pressures of illustrating (Dove still relied on illustration work for his primary source of income), Dove managed to continue painting.
It seems likely that Dove fashioned the subject of Sunrise in Northport Harbor1 after the glorious sunrises he must have witnessed from the Mona. The couple were still living on their yawl when Dove completed the painting in 1929. Indeed, the waves in the immediate foreground suggest that the viewer looks back toward the shore from a point on the water. The entire painting is suffused by a sense of child-like wonder. The homes, dwarfed by the sun, appear to be mere dollhouses. The nervous black lines of the water, echoed in the profiles of the surrounding hills, recall the erratic crayon lines of a child’s scribblings. The components of the painting are unified by the palette of warm yellows, blues, and greens that glow with life.
The swelling sun slightly left of the center of the painting commands the viewers attention by virtue of its sheer size. The sun was a source of endless interest and inspiration for Dove, as Forms Against the Sun and High Noon, the two other paintings by Dove in the Wichita collection, attest. Unlike the other two works, Sunrise in Northport Harbor is more realistic in style. Only the colossal orange and yellow orb, which rises majestically over the hills, suggests that the scene has been filtered through Doves imagination.
Sunrise in Northport Harbor was painted in 1929, three years after Dove sold his first painting to Duncan Phillips, an affluent New York collector. Starting in 1930, Phillips began supporting Dove on a regular basis by sending him fifty dollars a month in exchange for his first choice of Dove’s annual new work. Phillips’s patronage continued until Dove’s death in 1946. Phillips, who at one point only collected conservative American Impressionist paintings, credited Dove with changing his feelings about modern art:
“My own discovery of Dove about 1922 was important to my evolution as a critic and collector. At that time, I still had the writer’s attraction to painters whose special qualities could be interpreted and perhaps even recreated in words. Fascinated from the first glimpse by Dove’s unique vision I found that I was being drawn to an artist because his appeal was exclusively visual.”2
Through his patronage and friendship, Phillips provided Dove with the moral and financial support that the artist would increasingly rely on in the later years of his life.
- The painting was first exhibited under the title Sunrise at Northport [No. 2]. See Ann Lee Morgan, Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1984), 174.
2. Duncan Phillips quoted in Sasha Newman, Arthur Dove and Duncan Phillips: Artist and Patron (New York: George Braziller, 1981), 31.