Arthur Dove (American, 1880–1946)
Pastel on canvas
17 3/4 x 21 1/2 in. (45.1 x 54.6 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.70.72)
Early in his career, Dove produced a highly innovative series of pastel drawings that applied abstract formal means to subjects taken from nature. The shapes of a cow's head and body fill this canvas, in the curving forms of flanks, horns, and tail that fuse and intermingle. We seem to view the cow from several merging vantage points, as if we were shifting positions relative to the cow, or as if the cow itself were slowly moving. In this fragmentation and overlapping, Dove may have been influenced by Cubist works that he had seen exhibited in Europe and New York. Moreover, since he was earning his living as a farmer in the 1910s, close physical contact with animals was part of his everyday routine. Indeed, the subject of Cow seems to be presented from a "milker's eye view," which presses the viewer close to the animal's rear legs and udders.