Sun Drawing Water reveals Dove's attraction to the both the appearance and underlying mystery of nature. Undulating lines in the sky serve as literal representations of the forces of nature, a theme that fascinated Dove throughout his life and became most visible in his art during the 1930s. His interest in giving form to the mystical attributes of the environment was encouraged by fellow artists in the Stieglitz circle and reinforced by his familiarity with theosophical writings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dove was probably drawn to theosophical propositions asserting that the use of certain forms and colors symbolize hidden energies in nature.
Sun Drawing Water was completed in two weeks during January 1933, shortly before the Doves moved to Geneva in upstate New York. It appears to portray a powerful interaction between earth and sky, a symbolic representation of the evaporative effects of the sun. The water heaves in waves toward central columnar shafts that are shot through with thin, meandering lines and soar into the sun-filled sky. Additional lines quiver horizontally across the sky possibly alluding to the sun's all-encompassing force. Dove mentioned this in a 1925 poem in an Anderson Galleries exhibition catalogue; it reveals his outlook on nature. An excerpt reads:
Works of nature are abstract,
They do not lean on other things for meaning
The sea gull is not like the sea
Nor 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.
That the mountainside looks like a face is accidental.