Arthur Dove (American, 18801946)
Oil, folding wooden ruler, wood, and printed paper pasted on canvas; 22 x 18 in. (55.9 x 45.7 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.70.36)
Portrait of Ralph Dusenberry is one of twenty-five mixed-media works that Dove created during the 1920s; it is also an experiment with avant-garde portraiture, which was an interest shared by Dove's colleagues Marsden Hartley (49.70.42) and Charles Demuth (49.59.1). Dusenberry, like Dove, lived on a houseboat on the North Shore of Long Island. For this abstract portrait, Dove selected and assembled objects that he associated with his neighbor's personality and interests. The pieces of weathered wood, for example, refer to the docks, shingled cabins, and shipbuilding materials of Dusenberry's marine environment. The colorful flag may be another nautical allusion, and the painted area of green and brown at right suggests the hilly landscape of coastal Long Island. The sheet music pasted at the bottom of the canvas is a hymn that Dusenberry often sang; and the folding rulers that frame the work are fitting attributes of his profession as architect.