Artist, scholar and writer Arthur Wesley Dow is not known only for his painting and printmaking, but for his intense studies in composition and his broad knowledge of Japanese art.
He had studied under several notable artists, including portrait and historical painter Anna K. Freeland, and painter James M. Stone, before heading to France to enroll in the Academie Julian where he would work under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebre.
Dow returned to America, hoping to work in his own style, outside the formalities of the academic art world. He relocated to Boston, where he first experienced the works of Hokusai. He was so moved by the Japanese artist's works that he sought out the curator of Japanese art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Ernest Fenollosa, and the two quickly struck up a warm acquaintance.
Dow developed his own method of woodblock printing based on the Japanese style, but in a manner that suited his landscape works. He was appointed as an assistant curator to the collection in 1893, and began to lecture and compose teaching manuals about the concepts of composition in this style of art. His books were used widely by many schools across the nation, and served to forward his theories.
He continued to study, work, write and teach throughout the rest of his life. He worked in printing until 1907 and then returned to oil painting, relying on a bright palette and dynamic brush work.
His theory that art develops from simple concepts of abstraction was taken up by two of his most famous students, Georgia O'Keefe and Max Weber who would take abstract art to its next stages.
His prints and paintings are in the collections of many major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.