Swinging in the Park (There Were Colored People There)

Arthur Garfield Dove

1880 - 1946

Swinging in the Park (There Were Colored People There)

1930

Oil on board
23 1/4 x 32 in. (59.1 x 81.3 cm)
Framed: 25 7/8 x 34 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (65.7 x 87 x 5.7 cm)

Dove’s titles often ground his images in the tangible. Here he gives the viewer an activity in a particular location populated by African Americans. Part of the experience of Dove’s painting is decoding his lyrical and reductive method of abstracting from nature and objects. In this painting, while the park and even swings can be discerned, the viewer is frustrated in finding Dove’s “colored people.” While probably not a conscious decision by Dove, the painting can be understood as a metaphor for the African American experience during segregation: they are present in the park, yet remain unseen.

According to his wife, Helen Torr, Dove created Swinging in the Park by first making a watercolor study (Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine) which he projected onto the board as a guide for the larger oil painting. Although similar, the watercolor and oil are different enough to suggest that Dove was not simply copying the smaller work.