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ARTISTS / Dow, Arthur Wesley

American 1857-1922

"Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922) was born in Ipswich and interpreted images of the town throughout his lifetime. In Dow’s early years, although his family’ s funds were limited, his curiosity and intelligence were well appreciated. By age nineteen Dow recognized his artistic ability as he worked on illustrations for The Antiquarian Papers. After studying art in Worcester and Boston, he set his sights on Europe. Saving money from teaching and gathering financial support from Massachusetts’s patrons, Dow sailed for Paris in 1884 where he enrolled at the Academie Julian. During winters of rigorous academic training and summers spent on the north coast of France, Dow produced not only prize-winning entries into the Salon, but also paintings to exhibit and sell on return visits to the United States.

The 1890s were years of active change for Dow. In 1891 he founded the Ipswich Summer School of Art, which for fifteen years enrolled up to 200 students annually. He married Minnie Pearson in 1893. She had been, and would continue to be, his confidante and advisor throughout their life together; she played an active role in Dow’s printmaking and taught at the Ipswich Summer School. At the same time, Dow became disenchanted with the academic style. His reaction to the fledgling collection of Japanese works at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts revolutionized his thoughts on the theories of art. By incorporating Japanese techniques with the purity of design of the arts and crafts movement, Dow single-handedly changed the method of teaching art in America. The publication of his book Composition in 1899 and other academic papers solidified his pivotal role. After a few years as Assistant Curator of Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, he taught at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. From 1904 until his death he was the Director of the Fine Arts Department at the Teachers’ College at Columbia University in New York City.

Dow’s early style of painting reflected his Boston and Parisian academic training. Most early painting is tonal in character, but even then his interest in design, color, and harmony is evident. Dow’s fascination with light, especially twilight, remained a constant throughout his life. He painted the variation of color and intensity of the Ipswich Marshes, the cliffs of Gay Head, and the Grand Canyon with equal skill. He traveled extensively, but returned regularly to Ipswich where a thriving art colony, which included Henry Kenyon, John W. Mansfield, Francis H. Richardson, and Theodore Wendel, existed.

Dow produced oil paintings, photographs, ink wash drawings, and wood block prints until his death in 1922. Japanese wood block printing especially intrigued him; by using different colors on the same wood block, he could change both seasons and moods. His works were exhibited widely during his lifetime, and his reputation both as an art educator and an artist continue to grow. His exhibitions included the Art Institute of Chicago, St. Botolph’s Club, National Academy of Design, Boston Art Club."




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