The Sea I

Arthur Garfield Dove (American, 1880–1946)


33.65 x 53.97 cm (13 1/4 x 21 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Collage (gauze, sand and paper) on metal

Not On View





Arthur Garfield Dove was among the earliest American artists to experiment with abstraction. During a 1908-9 trip to France, he adopted a vibrant but still realistic style influenced by the Fauves. About 1910, he turned in a different direction and made a series of completely non-representational pastels. In 1912 he became the first American to exhibit abstract work publicly at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291 (Stieglitz would continue to encourage and support Dove throughout the artist’s life). Dove derived his organic compositions of carefully applied color from natural and manmade landscapes. After creating these groundbreaking images, however, he spent the next decade working only intermittently, largely due to financial constraints. He began to devote himself to painting again in the early 1920s.

Dove always pushed himself to investigate and to experiment with a variety of media, and between 1924 and 1928 he produced a remarkable group of some two dozen collages. Collage is the technique of arranging and then adhering pre-existing or “found” materials, both manmade and natural, onto paper, cardboard, or wood. By about 1912 Pablo Picasso had begun to incorporate pieces of newspaper, fabric, wallpaper, rope, and even chair caning into his pictures, creating some of the earliest mixed-media collages. The materials that Dove used ranged from magazine cutouts, pages torn out of books, wood, velvet, corduroy, denim, and needlepoint, to more three-dimensional objects such as shells, rocks, twigs, steel wool, bamboo, and in one case, earrings, a watch, stockings, and even garden gloves. Humorous “portraits” and figurative subjects make up the largest number of his collages, but Dove also made still lifes and landscapes in this medium. Dove’s collages, which he called “things,” were unprecedented in American art.

“The Sea I” is one of Dove’s most beautiful collages. He glued paper, sand, and gauze onto a sheet of scratched aluminum, creating a delicately moody evocation of light on the water. The silvery tone of the metal, which shifts slightly when viewed through the applied gauze, conveys the humid sheen of sky and sea. Real sand marks the beach. Using these simple materials sparingly, Dove created an image of great subtlety.

This text was adapted from Davis, et al., MFA Highlights: American Painting (Boston, 2003) available at


Reverse, on backing board: Sea I./1925/Dove.


The artist; with Downtown Gallery, New York; to William H. Lane Foundation, 1956; to MFA, 1990, gift of the William H. Lane Foundation.

Credit Line

Gift of the William H. Lane Foundation