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Arthur Wesley Dow

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Arthur Wesley Dow
BornApril 6, 1857 (1857-04-06)
Ipswich, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died (aged 65)
New York
EducationAcadémie Julian, Paris
SpouseEleanor Pearson (1893–1922; death)

Arthur Wesley Dow (April 6, 1857 – December 13, 1922)[1][2] was an American painter, printmaker, photographer and an arts educator.

Early life


Arthur Wesley Dow was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1857.[3] Dow received his first art training in 1880 from Anna K. Freeland of Worcester, Massachusetts. The following year, Dow continued his studies in Boston[1] with James M. Stone, a former student of Frank Duveneck and Gustave Bouguereau. In 1884, he went to Paris for his early art education, studying at the Académie Julian,[3] under the supervision of the academic artists Gustave Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre.

Crater Lake, oil on canvas, 1919
Arthur Wesley Dow: View of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 1919
Portrait of students of Académie Julian, France, 1886. (Dow is depicted in center)[4]
Arthur Wesley Dow, The Clam House, woodblock print, circa 1892
The Long Road--Argilla Road, Ipswich, 1898, Brooklyn Museum
Poster published in Les Maîtres de l'Affiche



In 1893, Dow was appointed assistant curator of the Japanese collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston under Ernest Fenellosa. Fenellosa introduced Dow to ukiyo‑e, the woodblock prints of Japan, which greatly influenced his later works.[3]

He accepted commissions for posters and other commercial work. In 1895, he designed the poster to advertise the Journal of Modern Art and in 1896, he designed the poster for an exhibition of Japanese prints.[5]

Over the course of his career, Dow taught art at a few major American arts training institutions, beginning with the Pratt Institute from 1896 to 1903. He also taught at the New York Art Students League, from 1898 to 1903.[6] In 1900, Dow founded and served as the director of the Ipswich Summer School of Art in Ipswich, Massachusetts. From 1904 to 1922, he was a professor of fine arts at Columbia University Teachers College.[6]

Death and legacy


Dow died on December 13, 1922, in his home in New York City.[1] He was interred in the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich, Massachusetts.[7] He was survived by his wife Eleanor Pearson, whom he married in 1893.[1]

Influence on others


Dow taught many of America's leading artists and craftspeople, including: Georgia O'Keeffe,[8] Shirley Williamson,[9] Charles Sheeler, Charles J. Martin[citation needed], two of the Overbeck Sisters, Delle Miller,[10] Charles Burchfield,[11] Isabelle Percy West[12] and Walter King Stone.[13] One of his pupils, the educator and printmaker Pedro Joseph de Lemos, adapted and widely disseminated Dow's theories in dozens of theoretical and instructional publications (1918–1950) for art schools.[14]

Dow also had influence at the Byrdcliffe Colony.



His work is represented in public museum collections, including Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas;[15] the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City;[16] Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York City;[17] 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, San Francisco, California;[18] the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.;[3] Columbia University, New York; Ipswich Historical Society;[19] Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement; and many other public and private collection.

Ideas on teaching art


His ideas were quite revolutionary for the period; Dow taught that rather than copying nature, individuals should create art through elements of the composition, such as line, mass, and color.[20] He wanted leaders of the public to see art is a living force for all in everyday life, not as a sort of traditional ornament for the few. Dow suggested that the American lack of interest in art would improve if art was presented as a means of self-expression. He wanted people to be able to include personal experience in creating art.[21]

His ideas on art were published in his 1899 book Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers. The following extracts are from the prefatory chapter "Beginnings" to the second edition of this book (1912):

Composition ... expresses the idea upon which the method here presented is founded - the "putting together" of lines, masses and colors to make a harmony. ... Composition, building up of harmony, is the fundamental process in all the fine arts. ... A natural method is of exercises in progressive order, first building up very simple harmonies ... Such a method of study includes all kinds of drawing, design and painting. It offers a means of training for the creative artist, the teacher or one who studies art for the sake of culture.


Works by Dow
  • Arthur Wesley Dow (1912). Theory and Practice of Teaching Art (2nd ed.). Teachers College, Columbia University.
  • Arthur Wesley Dow (January 1913). "Constructive Art-Teaching". Teachers College Bulletin. Columbia University.
  • Arthur Wesley Dow (September 1918), "A Course in Fine Art", Bulletin of the College Art Association of America, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 4 no, hdl:2027/mdp.39015017542740 – via HathiTrust
  • Arthur Wesley Dow (1920). Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers. Doubleday, Page & Company.


  1. ^ a b c d "Dr. Arthur W. Dow, Noted Artist, Dies". The New York Times. December 14, 1922. p. 21. Retrieved January 2, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ Glueck, Grace (November 15, 2002). "ART IN REVIEW; 'The Photographs of Arthur Wesley Dow'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Arthur Wesley Dow". Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). Archived from the original on September 26, 2017. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  4. ^ Frederick Campbell Moffatt (1975), "The Breton Years of Arthur Wesley Dow", Archives of American Art Journal, 15 (2): 2–8, doi:10.1086/aaa.15.2.1556933, JSTOR 1556933, S2CID 192717931
  5. ^ Waller, S. (ed.), Foreign Artists and Communities in Modern Paris, 1870-1914: Strangers in Paradise, Routledge, 2017, p. 119
  6. ^ a b Columbia University Teachers College Announcements, 1906-07:13;
  7. ^ Ipswich, Historic (February 10, 2022). "Arthur Wesley Dow". Historic Ipswich. Archived from the original on February 28, 2022. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  8. ^ Green, Nancy E. (2011). "Dow, Arthur Wesley | Grove Art". www.oxfordartonline.com. doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T2090166. ISBN 978-1-884446-05-4. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  9. ^ Cannon, Jennie Vennerström; Edwards, Robert W. (2012). Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies (PDF). Vol. 1. Oakland, CA: East Bay Heritage Project. pp. 665–666.
  10. ^ Craig, Susan V. (2006). "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)" (PDF). p. 148. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  11. ^ "Charles E. Burchfield: By Design > Exhibitions > Burchfield Penney Art Center". www.burchfieldpenney.org. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  12. ^ Koplos, Janet; Metcalf, Bruce (2010). Makers: A History of American Studio Craft. University of North Carolina Press. p. 82. ISBN 9780807834138.
  13. ^ Stone, Walter King (1961). A Stone's Throw. Friends of Walter King Stone.
  14. ^ Edwards, Robert W. (2015). Pedro de Lemos, Lasting Impressions: Works on Paper. Worcester, Mass.: Davis Publications Inc. pp. 57–62, 90–91 notes 300–327. ISBN 9781615284054.
  15. ^ "Arthur Wesley Dow". Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Archived from the original on October 17, 2021. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  16. ^ "Modern Art, 1895". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on November 18, 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  17. ^ "The Long Road--Argilla Road, Ipswich". Brooklyn Museum. Archived from the original on August 22, 2009. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  18. ^ "Arthur Wesley Dow". FAMSF Search the Collections. September 21, 2018. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  19. ^ "Arthur Wesley Dow". Historic Ipswich. February 1, 2021. Archived from the original on October 17, 2021. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  20. ^ Douglas C. Allen. "United States of America: Art Education". Grove Art Online.
  21. ^ Dow (1918), Bulletin of the College Art Association of America