Golden Storm was painted on Arthur Dove’s boat in Huntington Harbor, Long Island, and is one of the earliest Dove paintings to enter The Phillips Collection. It represents Dove at the beginning of his mature style. The small scale of the work, the result of limited working space, does not detract from the immense power of the painting, capturing the movement of the water and freezing it into abstract, timeless patterns. This work, in its successful evocation of the inner vitality of nature, constitutes the culmination of formative influences in Dove’s development, including trends in European modernist art, especially Wassily Kandinsky’s notion of spirituality.
Duncan Phillips’s acquisition of Golden Storm in 1926 represented a breakthrough for the collector in his growing acceptance of abstract form and expressive color as evocations of nature’s underlying dynamism. He admired Golden Storm as a “symphonic tone-poem on earth shapes whirled in the maelstrom.” He compared the painting to the art of Albert Pinkham Ryder, whom he considered Dove’s “spiritual ancestor,” not only in his reduction of nature’s forms to their purest elements, but also in his experimental techniques and choice of medium. Phillips also recognized a spiritual element in this early work of Dove’s in stating, “When there is a hint of great things going on in the mind of the artist and of his consciousness of the rhythm of the universe, abstract art ceases to be an amusement for the aesthete and becomes a divine activity.”