Arthur Wesley Dow Biography

Arthur Wesley Dow



Arthur Wesley Dow was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts on April 6, 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. In Paris his artistic ideals were revolutionized, after witnessing the new wave of styles and techniques-much of which he wasn't partial to, but never the less was inspired by.

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, and 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.

Arthur Wesley Dow died in New York on December 13, 1922.