Born in Brooklyn in 1877, Dougherty grew up expecting to become a lawyer and to join his father’s law practice. In 1898, despite his admission to the New York Bar, he deserted law for painting. After studying briefly in New York, Dougherty commenced his artistic training in the museums of Europe. In 1905 Dougherty had great success as a painter of marine subjects in an exhibition at Macbeth Galleries in New York, and he was elected to the Society of American Artists and the National Academy of Design the same year. During the 1910s, Dougherty traveled extensively and continued to receive favorable reviews. Duncan Phillips acquired many Dougherty paintings, and the museum currently holds three oil paintings, three watercolors, and three pastels ranging in subject matter from landscapes and seascapes to a still life.
Dougherty’s early works from 1906 to 1912 are characterized by short choppy strokes, a muted palette of earth tones, and an emphasis on form. One of Duncan Phillips’ first purchases of art, made on behalf of his father, was Storm Voices (1912), which exemplifies Dougherty’s early seascape style. In 1915, after seeing a work by Dougherty in Pittsburgh, Phillips commented in his journal on the artist’s ability to create “great unity of mood
line-color-rhythm-movement-greatness of cloud forms, wave forms, rock forms, [in which] everything is on an epic scale and at a mood of lyric ecstasy.”
In spite of his early success, Dougherty remained open to new ideas and techniques. The greatest change in his canvases occurred in the late teens and revealed a response to Impressionism and Fauvism. The Phillips Collection’s Round of the Bay (undated) is characteristic of this period. Although still employing daubs of color as accents, Dougherty used broad sweeps of color to define form, producing an effect of grandeur. The forms are unified by the reiteration of shapes through carefully developed compositions. In a letter to Duncan Phillips dated March 18, 1918, Dougherty declared of his later works: “What I want as I grow older is a richer and deeper interrelationship in a work of art
In other words my view-point
becomes classic in that it desires
that the expression itself should strive toward perfection; that it should be formed as [if] it were from within, not shaped from without.”