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.