Clouds and Water was inspired by the landscape of Halesite, a town on the north shore of Long Island where Dove and his companion Helen "Reds" Torr lived in the late 1920s. They resided on their boat, the Mona, in warm weather and they had just begun their first winter as caretakers of the Ketewomoke Yacht Club in November 1929. From their second-floor room at the Yacht Club, surrounded by windows on three sides, Dove and Torr had an unimpeded view of Huntington Harbor. In the airy marine prospect of Clouds and Water, several sailboats dip along the surface of the waves, and a landscape of rounded hills rises in the distance. The sky, which fills half the canvas, is banded with long curving lines that suggest wind currents. The painting's unrestrained painting style indicates Dove's philosophy about the elements of nature: they are independent yet interconnected, unique yet mutable. He also expressed this idea in the verse-like statement that he had written earlier for the catalogue of the exhibition Seven Americans in 1925, which reads in part:
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.
Inscription: Signed (lower right): Dove
the artist (1930–probably 1931; probably in 1931 to Stieglitz); Alfred Stieglitz, New York (probably 1931–d. 1946; his estate, 1946–49; gift to MMA)
New York. An American Place. "Arthur G. Dove: 27 New Paintings, Abstractions, Landscapes," March 9–April 4, 1931, no catalogue (checklist no. 8).
New York. An American Place. "Arthur G. Dove, Exhibition of Oils and Temperas," April 10–May 17, 1939, no catalogue (checklist no. 14).
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "History of an American, Alfred Stieglitz: '291' and After, Selections from the Stieglitz Collection," July 1–November 1, 1944, no. 258.
Huntington, N. Y. Heckscher Museum. "Arthur G. Dove of Long Island Sound," August 20–September 17, 1967, no. 18.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arthur Dove/Helen Torr: Land and Water," February 14–June 14, 1998, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe," October 13, 2011–January 2, 2012, no. 71.
Paul Rosenfeld. "The World of Arthur G. Dove." Creative Art 10 (June 1932), p. 422, ill.
Waldo Frank, Lewis Mumford, Dorothy Norman, Paul Rosenfeld, and Harold Rugg, ed. America and Alfred Stieglitz: A Collective Portrait. Garden City, N. Y., 1934, pl. XB.
Sheldon Cheney. Expressionism in Art. New York, 1934, p. 329, ill.
Waldo Frank, Lewis Mumford, Dorothy Norman, Paul Rosenfeld, and Harold Rugg, ed. America and Alfred Stieglitz: A Collective Portrait. Rev. ed (1st ed., 1934). Millerton, N. Y., 1979, pl. 71.
Ann Lee Morgan. Arthur Dove: Life and Work, with a Catalogue Raisonné. Newark, Del., 1984, p. 181, no. 30.5.
Ann Lee Morgan, ed. Dear Stieglitz, Dear Dove. Newark, Del., 1988, p. 221.
Kate Farrell. Art and Nature: An Illustrated Anthology of Nature Poetry. New York, 1992, p. 31, ill.
Marc Chénetier et al. Américônes: Études sur l'image aux États-Unis. Fontenay-aux-Roses, 1997, p. 18.
Helen A. Harrison. "Arthur G. Dove and the Origins of Abstract Expressionism." American Art 12 (spring 1998), pp. 76-77, fig. 9.
Jessica Murphy inStieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Lisa Mintz Messinger. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, pp. 114, 260, no. 71, ill. (color).
Isabelle Duvernois and Rachel Mustalish inStieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Lisa Mintz Messinger. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, p. 122.