Arthur Wesley Dow (April 6, 1857 – December 13, 1922) was an American painter, printmaker, photographer, and influential arts educator. He taught at major American arts training institutions for 30 years. Among them were Teachers College, Columbia University; the Art Students League of New York; Pratt Institute; and his own Ipswich Summer School of Art.

Arthur Wesley Dow; August Moon, 1905, woodcut print

Dow’s ideas were quite revolutionary for the period: rather than copying nature, art should be created by elements of the composition, like line, mass and color. He rejected academic methods and developed a highly unusual approach reflecting Egyptian, Aztec, and Japanese artifacts and images. He studied Japanese prints, Sumi ink painting and woodblock techniques and introduced the concept of ‘notan‘.

With a more visionary approach than earlier teaching styles, he encouraged his students – such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Max Weber and Pamela Colman Smith (more about them later) – to formulate their own experimental and individualistic methods.

His ideas were published in the 1899 book Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers.


Link to The Blue Lantern blogsite, about the time of Art Nouveau, with some of Dow’s art.


3 thoughts on “Arthur Wesley Dow: Notan

  1. Pingback: Painting to Music – Pamela Colman Smith | On The Spiritual In Art

  2. Pingback: Notan and the Southwest – WithFlyingColor News

  3. Pingback: O’Keeffe in New York | On The Spiritual In Art

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s