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View of Ipswich, ca. 1895

View of Ipswich, ca. 1895

Arthur Wesley Dow (1857 – 1922)

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.