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Arthur Wesley Dow

 (1857 - 1922)
Arthur Wesley Dow was active/lived in New York, Massachusetts.  Arthur Dow is known for landscape, coastal view and marine painting.

Arthur Wesley Dow

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Arthur Wesley Dow
Born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Arthur Dow was a painter and printmaker of Oriental motifs whose teaching greatly influenced the first generation of American modernists including Max Weber and Georgia O'Keeffe.

He in turn was influenced by William Morris Hunt, other French Barbizon painters, and Frank Duveneck. From 1884 to 1889, he painted in Paris, studying at the Academie Julian, and in Brittany at Pont Aven where he undoubtedly met Paul Gaughin but was most affected there by the painting of Thomas Alexander Harrison.

In 1889, he returned to Ipswich and taught art privately and in Boston. In 1891, through an association with Ernest Fenolosa, Curator of Japanese art at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, he began an interest in Japanese art that permanently changed the direction of his work.

He also explored the techniques of woodblock printing and brush drawing and worked on ways to explain the underlying philosophy of Oriental art to Western art students. He used these theories in his teaching at the Art Students League and the Pratt Institute and as head of the Art Education Department at Columbia College, and published his ideas in a book titled "Composition." Because of the prestige of his position at Columbia, his ideas circulated across the country.

Utilizing his theories that art grows from simple concepts of abstraction, he created Oriental motif paintings and prints with simple shapes and subtle contrasts of color that were abstract but not radical.

He painted the Grand Canyon twice--as a visitor, in 1911, and in 1912 as a companion to photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn. In 1917, he spent the summer in Portland, Oregon where he lectured on art appreciation at the Portland Museum of Art. On that trip, he visited Yellowstone National Park and did watercolor sketches of the landscape, which reflected Dow's fascination with design and arrangement of geographical elements.

Matthew Baigell, "Dictionary of American Art"
Peter Hassrick, "Drawn to Yellowstone"

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Arthur Wesley Dow
Born in Ipswich, MA in 1857, Arthur Dow studied art in Boston and continued in Paris under Lefebvre, Doucet, Delance, and Boulanger.  After 1890 he made trips to the West, including California.

He taught at the Pratt Institute (1895-1904), Art Students Lealgue in New York City (1897-1903), and Columbia University from 1904 until his death on Dec. 13, 1922.

Dow was the author of several books on the teaching of art.

During the 1920s the Arthur Dow Association of Los Angeles was formed by many of his students to preserve his philosophy and teaching methods.

Paris Salon, 1886, 1899 (prize); Pan-American Expo (Buffalo), 1901 (medal); Armory Show (NYC), 1913; Panama Pacific Exposition 1915 (medal); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1929 (retrospective).

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1919; Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Artists of the American West (Samuels); Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure); NY Times, 12-14-1922 (obituary); American Art Review, July 2001.

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Spanierman Gallery (retired)
The significance of Arthur Wesley Dow as an artist and teacher is becoming increasingly apparent. A champion of fine craftsmanship in a wide variety of art media, Dow was a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts revival that became prominent in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He advocated principles of pure design and promoted the creation of handmade rather than machine made objects. Dow also played an important role in American art as his work bridged the gap between Eastern and Western art.

Applying principles of Oriental design to depictions of commonplace locales, Dow created works that were ahead of their time, anticipating the East/West synthesis that would be sought by modernist artists as the twentieth century progressed.

Born in Ipswich, Massachusetts into an old, established New England family, Dow received his first art training in 1880 from Anna K. Freeland of Worcester, Massachusetts. The following year, Dow continued his studies in Boston with James M. Stone, a former student of Frank Duveneck and Gustave Bouguereau. In October 1884, Dow followed the path of many native painters of his era, and departed for Paris.

In the French capital, he enrolled at the Académie Julian where his instructors were Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. Among his fellow students were John Henry Twachtman, Willard Metcalf, and Edmund Tarbell. While abroad, Dow spent his summers in Pont Aven, Brittany, in the company of the Americans, Benjamin Harrison, Arthur Hoeber and Charles Lazar.

Dow returned to America in 1887. A year later, the first solo exhibition of his work was held at the J. Eastman Chase Gallery in Boston. After spending another summer in Pont-Aven, Dow settled in Ipswich in 1889 and began to hold private art classes. Soon, however, he moved to Boston, where he became interested in Egyptian and Aztec artifacts, which he saw at the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts.

At the same time, he began to study the prints of the Japanese artist, Hokusai. He sought out the curator of Japanese art at the Museum, Ernest Fenollosa, who shared his view that art should be both pictorial and decorative and introduced him to the other masters of Sumi ink painting and woodblock techniques. Soon after meeting Fenellosa, Dow developed a method for making woodcuts that reflected his study of Japanese techniques. He found the subjects for his prints mainly on Boston's North Shore, which he felt were well suited to the Japanese-inspired appreciation of nature that he sought to express.

In 1893, Dow was appointed assistant curator of the Japanese collection at the Museum of Fine Arts under Fenellosa. Two years later, he gave a lecture outlining his ideas on Japanese art, which became the basis for his popular teaching manual, entitled "Composition," which was published in 1899. As this text was used by public schools, it served to disseminate Dow's ideas broadly.

Dow later wrote additional books on design including "Theory and Practice of Teaching Art and Constructive Art Teaching." Dow also had an active teaching career. He taught first at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, then at the Art Students League in New York and, finally, at Columbia University's Teachers College. In his teaching, Dow emphasized abstract concepts of line, notan (chiaroscuro) and color in order to arrive at a synthesis of eastern and western thought. His famous pupils, Max Weber and Georgia O'Keeffe, carried his methods even further into abstraction.

After 1900, Dow maintained a studio in his native Ipswich and conducted summer classes there. The nearby marshes and the area of Bayberry Hill were frequent subjects of his landscapes. His work in print mediums took up most of his time during the first decade of the century but, when he returned to oils in 1907, he began to experiment with a brighter palette and more expressive brushwork.

Dow died in New York on December 1, 1922. His work is represented in the Amon-Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; the San Diego Museum of Art; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Boston; the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Columbia University, New York; Ipswich Historical Society; the Ipswich Public Schools and many other public and private collections.

Biography from Annex Galleries
Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922)

Arthur Wesley Dow was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1857.  His early training in Worcester, Massachusetts with the portrait and historical painter Anna K. Freeland was followed by his apprenticeship in Boston with the painter, James M. Stone.  Encouraged to continue his studies in Europe, Dow set sail in 1884 for Paris where he became a pupil of Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefèbre.

Upon his return to Boston in 1889, Dow hoped to pursue his artistic bent while eschewing the rigidity of the academies.  His discovery of a book on the Japanese ukiyo-e printmaker Katsushika Hokusai at the Boston Public Library exposed him to design elements that had not been addressed in his formal art studies abroad.  This discovery led Dow to the Boston Museum of Art where he met the foremost Japanese scholar, Ernest Fenollosa.  Together they studied the formal design elements of Japanese prints and distilled them into four classifications: line, form, color, and notan, or the use and dark and light.

Dow elaborated on these new theories in his book, Notan. His theories were given expression in his photographs, paintings and prints.  He was an eminent teacher, printmaker, curator and scholar.  His ideas were dispersed across America via the aspiring teachers who attended Teachers College, Columbia University where he served as director of the art department; his students at his Ispwich Summer School of Art; and his enthusiastic lectures at various institutions.  Dow has guided generations of artists and artisans to better design through his teaching and writing.  Georgia O'Keefe and Max Weber were two of his most noted students.  His books Composition and Notan have left their mark on American printmaking, painting, photography and the decorative arts, including textiles, furniture, and pottery.

Two recent major exhibitions of Dow's paintings, color woodcuts and photography recently took place in New York and another is scheduled to open at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe.  These exhibitions resulted in the publication of Arthur
Wesley Dow: His Art and His Influence
by the Spanierman Gallery; Along the Ipswich River: The Color Woodcuts of Arthur Wesley Dow by David Acton and Joseph Goddu, and Arthur Wesley Dow and American Arts & Crafts by Nancy Green, curator of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Cornell University, and Jessie Poesch.

Acton, David & Goddu, Joseph, Along Ipswich River, The Color Woodcuts of Arthur Wesley Dow, New York: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, 19

Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Inspiring Reform: Boston's Arts and Crafts Movement, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1997.

Green, Nancy E., Arthur Wesley Dow and His Influence, Ithaca, New York: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 1990.

Green, Nancy E. & Poesch, Jessie, Arthur Wesley Dow And American Arts & Crafts, New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1999.

Johnson, Arthur Warren, Arthur Wesley Dow, Historian, Artist, Teacher, Ipswich, Massachusetts, Ipswich Historical Society, 1934.

McPherson, Beth Ann and Tommy, Arthur Wesley Dow and His Influence Upon the Arts and Crafts Movement in American, Berkeley, California, 1999.

Meech, Julia & Weisberg, Gabriel P., Japonisme Comes To America: The Japanese Impact on the Graphic Arts 1876-1925, New York: Harryn Abrams Inc, Publishers, 1990.

Spanierman Gallery, LLC, Arthur Wesley Dow: His Art and His Influence, New York, 1

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About  Arthur Wesley Dow

Born:  1857 - Ipswich, Massachusetts
Died:   1922 - Huntington, New York
Known for:  landscape, coastal view and marine painting