Ketewomoke Yacht Club

Arthur Dove and his Inspiration 

Arthur Dove is acknowledged as America's first abstract painter. Dove and his wife, Helen Torr, began spending their winters and living in the Ketewomoke Yacht Club in 1929. The Yacht Club and its surroundings served as Dove's major influence for his paintings and work, as he painted masterpieces of abstract nature. Dove's paintings reveal the influence that Huntington Harbor had on his life style as the environment is depicted through his natural and abstract watercolors. Dove had a passion for his work and called his paintings his “extractions”. During this time period, Americans were not used to modernism. Dove recognized this- “I thought those days were over, but the worst seems always still to come.” Despite Dove's doubt, he later became a major figure in art history. 

Dove's primary subject for his art was the local landscape which he “simplified into its essential forms with expressive color and line”. He had first hand experience of ocean tides, weather patterns and seasonal cycles. He used a color effect in many of his works called “a condition of light”, which he “applied to all objects in nature, flowers, trees and people”. During the 1920's, Dove experimented with numerous subjects and materials, resulting in collages and abstract portraits. His paintings captured the small town character of Huntington and Halesite of the 1920's. Dove's most famous works were created during his time at the Yacht Club. 

     “Living on the water in Halesite, so close to nature, provided Dove with ample inspiration”
 -Arthur Dove and Helen Torr: The Huntington Years, 33

Dove was among the select group of seven Americans promoted by Alfred Steiglitz at his intimate gallery. ( Arthur Dove (1880–1946) | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art) Many of his works were exhibited at the gallery along with work by Georgia O'Keeffe. Both Dove's and Torr's works are also exhibited at Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington. These paintings were found in the attic of Ketewomoke Yacht Club and donated to this neighboring museum. For more Information on The Heckscher Museum of Art


Arthur Dove, Sunrise, 1924. Oil on panel
"The first step was to choose from nature a motif in color, and with that motif to paint from nature, the form still being objective. The second step was to apply this same principle to form, the actual dependence on the object ... disappearing, and the means of expression becoming purely subjective. After working for some time in this way, I no longer observed in the old way, and not only began to think subjectively but also to remember certain sensations purely through their form and color, that is, by certain shapes, planes of light, or character lines determined by the meeting of such planes."
                   -Arthur Dove, when explaining to a friend his process of abstraction, 1913


Huntington Harbor I

Huntington Harbor I, Acquired 1928
In Huntington Harbor I, Dove used materials directly associated to the subject. However, instead of arranging the objects to obtain an abstracted image, he retained the traditional format of a seascape by representing a lone boat on the water. A piece of canvas with a crossbar drawn in black represents the sail; vertical wooden strips represent masts; and sandpaper signifies the shore. 



Publication: Long Islander (Huntington) - 1839-1974; Date: Feb 3, 1972; Section: None; Page: 5

This document discusses how Dove's painting will be added to Heckscher Museum. The museum said it is “filling the greatest gap in its collection”. His most productive years were spent on the harbor. “By 1929 they had arranged to live in a room above Ketewomoke Yacht Club at Halesite where they lived until 1933.”

Clouds and Water

Clouds and Water, oil on canvas, 1930
Clouds and Water was inspired by the landscape of Halesite. Dove and Torr resided on their boat, the Mona, in warm weather, and spent their winters at the Ketewomoke Yacht Club starting in 1929. From their second floor room at the Yacht Club, surrounded by windows on three sides, Dove and Torr had an unobstructed view of Huntington Harbor. In Clouds and Water, several sailboats sit along the surface of the waves, and a landscape of rounded hills are seen in the distance. The sky is banded with long curving lines that suggest wind currents. The painting's style shows Dove's philosophy about the elements of nature; they are “independent yet interconnected, unique yet mutable”.  

Dove expressed this idea in the verse that he had written for the      catalogue of the exhibition Seven Americans in 1925, which reads:

Works of nature are abstract.

They do not lean on other things for meaning.

The seagull is not like the sea

Nor is the sun like the moon.

The sun draws water from the sea.

The clouds are not like either one—

They do not keep one form forever. 

Indian Summer

1941, Oil on canvas, Heckscher Museum of Art

The work in this painting has been identified as an American Indian inspiration. Similarly inspired motifs appear in many other works by Dove.

Portrait of Ralph Dusenberry

Oil, folding wooden ruler, wood, and printed paper pasted on canvas, 1924
Portrait of Ralph Dusenberry is an experiment with avant-garde portraiture. Dusenberry, like Dove, lived on a houseboat on the North Shore of Long Island. For this abstract portrait, Dove chose objects that he felt were associated with Dusenberry's personality and interests. The pieces of weathered wood refer to the docks, shingled cabins and shipbuilding materials of Dusenberry's surrounding environment. The colorful flag is a nautical allusion, and the green and brown painted area represents the hilly landscape of coastal Long Island. The sheet music at the bottom of the canvas is a hymn that Dusenberry often sang, and the rulers that outline the work match his profession as an architect. 


Gale, 1932, 
oil on canvas
In a letter to Alfred Stieglitz, Dove described a storm he experienced aboard the Mona;
"It is now 3:45 a.m. in the midst of a terrific gale and
we are anchored in the middle of Huntington 
Bay...have been trying to memorize this storm all day
so that I can paint it. Storm green and storm gray. It
has been too dark and nerve-strained to paint...
" Unlike the themes of Dove's other works,
Gale shows a menacing, and haunting character. The clouds and sea seem to be transforming into hands, arms and eyes.



Publication: Long Islander (Huntington) - 1839-1974; Date: Aug 31, 1967; Section: None; Page: 15
This article from 1967 announces that Dove's paintings from 1910-1946 will be displayed in Heckscher Museum.

Oyster Stakes, Helen Torr

Oil on paperboard, 1930

Oyster Stakes, painted in the summer of 1930 by Dove's wife, depicts a view in Huntington Harbor. The "rhythmic waves and wind blown flags give the work a lyrical and decorative quality", which characterizes much of Torr's work. 




This article discusses where Dove's exhibits and
projects were displayed. It mentions Dove's
relation and connection with Stieglitz. 

Publication: Suffolk County News (Sayville)


Georgia O'Keeffe, Poppy, 1927, Oil on canvas

Arthur Dove and his inspiration from the Ketewomoke Yacht Club led to his influence upon major figures in art. Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986) is known as a distinct American icon and one of the most famous artists of the twentieth century. She credited Arthur Dove as the single individual who had the most significant impact on her development as an artist. Dove was her initial introduction to modern art, and his approach to art inspired O'Keeffe to “experiment with abstraction”.


"[T]he way you see nature depends on whatever has influenced your way of seeing...I think it was Arthur Dove who affected my start, who helped me to find something of my own.”  -Georgia O'Keeffe

Alfred Stieglitz, the owner of a gallery, featured both Arthur Dove and Georgia O'Keeffe. Dove and O'Keeffe reflected upon eachother; O'Keeffe credited Dove's pastels as her “first introduction to American modernism”, and Dove acknowledged her “bold interpretations of nature and use of watercolors as a source of renewal for his own art”.

Click for Their Inspiring Relationship 

Dove's reputation continued to increase after his death in 1946. He has been credited with having an indirect influence on the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. These artists also placed similar emphasis on surroundings and the strong power of color and line.