Pozzuoli Red is characteristic of the paintings Arthur Dove produced in his last decade when his art embraced a more abstract style that focused on color and engaged in spatial experimentation. Dove was fully aware of the newest developments in European abstraction and the broader shift in American modernism in the late 1930s toward abstract art. In paintings like Pozzuoli Red, Dove, who had always sought to represent the unseen rhythms of his environment by reducing forms to their purest essence, continued to evoke nature’s underlying forces and their sensations with organic shapes, undulating lines, bands of color, and glowing light; however, now these abstract elements were divorced from recognizable motifs.
A master colorist, Dove distilled forms to paintings of color often suggestive of an infinite space. He chose his colors carefully—bold red, cool complimentary blues, and warm golds—and created a riotous abstraction of color. The red center explodes with energy, yet it is contained by the calming patches of blue along the edges of the canvas. Dove’s names for these abstractions were the colors he used. Here, it is a red ochre redolent of the earth and volcanoes whose color name derives from its physical place of origin in Pozzuoli, near Naples, Italy.