Comments: Perhaps the single most influential American teacher of his time, Dow was integral to the Arts and Crafts Movement and to the introduction and spreading of Japonisme in the United States.
He came from a Puritan background and had a classical education. After studying in France in the 1880s, he returned to Boston and worked as an assistant curator at the Museum of Fine Arts. Here he was introduced to Japanese art by the Oriental scholar and curator, Ernest Fenolossa.
Dow began making color woodblock prints by the early 1890s, and in 1895 had the first ever exhibition (at the BMFA) of color woodblock prints by a Western artist.
From 1895-1904, he taught at the Pratt Institute. Dow’s most important breakthrough came with his integration of Eastern and Western art, and his development of corresponding new theories on composition which he published in 1899 as Composition.
This book proved highly influential on the next two generations of American artists. He continued teaching at Columbia Univ. (1904-22) and his popular Ipswich Summer Art School (c.1900-07) attracted serious students from all over the country. Georgia O’Keeffe and Max Weber were among the many students who acknowledged his profound influence. Although he is best known for his Ipswich scenes, he also visited the West and produced paintings of the Grand Canyon (exhibited 1913). He was also a photographer. In addition to Composition,he was author of Theory and Practice of Teaching Art, Constructive Art Teaching, By Salt Marshes, Ipswich Prints and Prints from Wood Blocks.
Sources: WW21; Frederick C. Moffatt, Arthur Wesley Dow (exh. cat., NCFA, 1977); Baigell, Dictionary; Fink,
American Art at the Nineteenth-Century Paris Salons, 339
This biography is drawn from the “Who Was Who in American Art” , the reference book on the cultural life in the United States.
Arthur Wesley Dow
August Moon, ca. 1905
Woodcut on paper, 13.5 x 18.5 cm.
Collection of Edgar O. Smith, New York
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