13 March 2018 // Florine van Rees //Rotterdam



During a small documentary about Georgia O'Keeffe on Nowness, I got triggered by a phrase coming from one of her main inspiration sources Arthur Dow. His then radical opproach on art claimed that his idea was to put it simply by filling a space in a beautiful way.  This way of thinking set the inspiring O'Keeffe free and let her develop her own style in painting and feel free to do so. 

It made me think as well, since I was quite astonished about this mindset in the 19th century already. I looked up the both visual and written work of Arthur Dow and found out that there is a narrow line between the classical way of approaching the art of painting and the one that ignores all rules. 

His ideas on Art were published in the 1899 book Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers. The following extracts are from the prefatory chapter "Beginnings" to the second edition of this book (1912):

"Composition ... expresses the idea upon which the method here presented is founded - the "putting together" of lines, masses and colors to make a harmony. ... Composition, building up of harmony, is the fundamental process in all the fine arts. ... A natural method is of exercises in progressive order, first building up very simple harmonies ... Such a method of study includes all kinds of drawing, design and painting. It offers a means of training for the creative artist, the teacher or one who studies art for the sake of culture." - Arthur Dow


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