The Derelict (The Lost Boat)
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, Dowsingle-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.
Many of America’s leading ceramicists, furniture-makers, painters, photographers, and printmakers were Dow’s students, including Georgia O'Keefe. While studying with Alon Bement, she learned a new style of painting that he learned from Arthur Wesley Dow, a New York art teacher. O'Keefe ’s life as an artist took her to many places, and in 1914 she moved back to New York to study with Arthur Wesley Dow. Dow’s style was an abstract method that used geometric shapes and filled these spaces in a beautiful way. This would become the style of painting that would make O'Keefe famous.
(The Lost Boat), 1916
5 13/16 x 4 5/8 in.
Amon Carter Museum
Fort Worth, Texas (1988.30)
Modern Art, 1895
17 3/4 x 13 11/16 in.
Collection Andrew Terry Keats
The Ipswich Painters
The “Ipswich Painters,” as they were known, included Edna Baylor, Arthur Wesley Dow, Henry Kenyon, Arthur Kimball, John Mansfield, Carl Nordstrom, Jane Peterson, Francis Richardson, and Theodore Wendel-all of whom chose to live in Ipswich. (Dow was born here and called Ipswich his residence throughout his life.) All were born in the nineteenth century and survived several decades into the twentieth. Most of them were here when Dow was alive. Some were summer residents (Kimball), some became more or less permanent (Baylor and Peterson). Others were full time residents (Kenyon, Mansfield, Nordstrom, Richardson, and Wendel.)
54 South Main Street/Rte. 1A, Ipswich, MA 01938
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