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 Thomas Millie Dow  (1848 - 1919)

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Lived/Active: Scotland/England      Known for: floral studies, landscape and portrait painting, allegory

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Spring, St Ives Bay
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Thomas Millie Dow (28 October 1848 – 3 July 1919) was a Scottish artist and a member of the Glasgow Boys*, an aesthetic and marketing affiliation of artists. He was a member of The Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour and the New English Art Club.

Dow was born 28 October 1848 at Dysart, Fife. He was educated for the law and was expected to follow his father and brother into the family law firm in Kirkcaldy. Deciding against a career in law, Dow went to Paris in 1877 and enrolled for classes at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts* under Jean-Léon Gérôme. Later, in 1879 he registered with the ateliers* of Rudolphe Julien and Carolus Duran.

Of his earlier instruction in painting and drawing little is known except for the encouragement he received from his uncle Alexander Millie, an amateur artist.
Two young men, who were among the many young British and American students, registered for classes in Paris in the late 1870s and they became Dow’s particular friends. They were the Englishman William Stott of Oldham and the American Abbott Handerson Thayer. Both men were to remain important figures in Dow’s personal and professional life and, as both had strong personalities and strong ideas about art, they came to exert a considerable influence over the artistic choices he made.

Dow painted in oils, watercolour and pastels. His subjects include flower studies, landscapes, portraits and decorative allegorical works. The geographical range of his landscapes extends through Scotland, north-eastern United States, Morocco, northern Italy and Cornwall. Using a subtly refined palette he chose to depict the quiet moods of nature. The subjects of his compositions range from the intense stillness of woodland to the calm before a storm at sea; and from dusk deepening on a northern shore to the lifting haze of a Mediterranean spring morning.

1877-79 Dow spent the winters in the Paris studios and making occasional sketching excursions with fellow students Mann, Paterson, and Bell, to the villages of Barbizon and Grez-sur-Loing in the Forest of Fontainebleau. The summers, he spent painting in the towns and villages along the east coast of Scotland, travelling from Dysart through St Andrews and on up to Stonehaven, Cullen, Cowie, Collieston and Forvie Ness.

Upon his return from Paris and based at home in Dysart records show Dow exhibiting at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in Edinburgh from 1878 and at the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Art (RGIFA) from 1879. However his letters to the Thayer family from this period reveal the degree of anxiety he felt about he direction his career should take.

1883 On 6 September Dow sailed on the Devonia from Glasgow to New York. From there he travelled up the Hudson River to the home of Abbott Thayer and his wife Kate Bloede at Cornwall-on-Hudson. (Thayer had built there a studio on land owned by the Stillman family.) Dow stayed in the US into the early summer of 1884. During these several months he produced what may be his best-known landscape, The Hudson River (Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow). It is a view of the river taken from the Thayer’s house.

The US visit had re-invigorated Dow. His letters to Thayer between 1885-87 reveal his renewed enthusiasm for landscape, although he was also doing portraits and allegorical painting. Dow was at this time sharing the Glasgow studio of W. Y. Macgregor and living with Mary and her husband Allan McLean, the lawyer, amateur painter and art collector.

It is for the work completed between 1885-1895 for which Dow is mostly known, and it was a time when he was closely associated with that group of artists who later became affectionately known as the ‘Glasgow Boys’*. Though the Glasgow School grouping was ‘geographical in nature rather than stylistic’, it was formed to gain its members a wider audience. Exhibitions at the Grosvenor Gallery and the Grafton Gallery in London led to invitations from Secession galleries in Vienna, Munich, Berlin in the 1890s and, later, to exhibitions in U.S. cities.

Dow married Florence Pilcher (née Cox) in 1891. Florence, a widow, had a boy and a girl from her first marriage, and the couple own daughter, Mary Rosamond, was born in 1892. Two years later, in 1894, the family moved from Glasgow to St Ives, Cornwall where Dow joined his friends and fellow painters Louis Grier and Lowell Dyer as members of the St Ives Art Club.  Though living far from Glasgow, records show that Dow continued to exhibit there and in other cities in Scotland.

Of the Cornish paintings his most frequent subject in both oils and pastels is the harbour at St Ives. This he depicts in contrasting moods, busy with boats in the sunshine and lying calm under a moonlit sky.

Dow died on 3 July 1919 at St Ives, Cornwall, England and is buried at Zennor.


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