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Arthur Wesley Dow papers, circa 1826-1978, bulk 1879-1922

More Information

Kathleen Brown
Scope and Contents
The papers of Arthur Wesley Dow measure 1.3 linear feet and date from 1826 to 1978, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1879 to 1922. Correspondence consists of two folders, which contain a few letters from Dow to his family during his stints painting in Brittany and to and from Columbia University's Teachers College, as well as letters from his wife (then fiancée) Minnie Pearson Dow to her mother and friend while she, too, was studying painting abroad. There is also a folder of typescript and handwritten notes on Dow's correspondence, the majority of which is not in this collection, attributed to his biographer, Arthur Warren Johnson. Diaries include travel diaries kept by Dow and his brother Dana F. Dow during their "trip around the world" in 1903-1904. Publications, clippings, exhibition catalogs, announcements for Dow's Ipswich Summer School of Art and a new edition of his book Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers are found within printed materials. Notes and writings include a substantial number of handwritten manuscripts and typescripts of Dow's lectures on art and art history during his tenure as the Dean of Fine Arts at the Teachers College of Columbia University. There are a few examples of works of art, including prints from the Ipswich Prints series, and a pencil sketch of a colonial home, similar to those that appeared in the serial Antiquarian Papers.
This collection is particularly rich in vintage prints of Dow portraits as well as family and group photographs, although it does not include any of the artist's landscape cyanotypes. Among the nineteen vintage prints are several platinum prints including a portrait by the renowned Pictorialist photographer Gertrude Käsebier and an atmospheric image of Dow taken at the Grand Canyon by Mrs. Fannie Coburn, the mother of another well-known Pictorialist photographer, Alvin Langdon Coburn. There are also three portraits by Herbert Hess and a photogravure of Dow by Kenneth Alexander that was used in the publication announcement for the second edition of Composition. Group photographs include an albumen print of fellow artist Henry R. Kenyon with Dow in his Ipswich studio, with classmates at the Académie Julian in Paris, and with his own students during a crafts class at his Ipswich Summer Art School. There are also several modern copy prints of vintage photographs from other collections as well as photographs of artworks by Dow and his contemporaries.
Material on reels 1027 and 1033-1034 were lent for microfilming by the Ipswich Historical Society, 1975. The diary on reel 1079 was lent by the Society for Preservation of New England Antiquities, 1976. Dow's grand-niece, Mrs. George N. Wright, donated material in 1976, and lent the photographs for microfilming in 1977. Additional material was received from Frederick Moffatt in 1989, who had obtained them in preparation for his book Arthur Dow (1977).
Separated Material
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reels 1027, 1033-1034, and 1079) including biographical material, correspondence, manuscripts, printed material, and one diary. Reel 1271 contains group photographs taken at the Académie Julian, Paris, as well as unidentified group photographs, some of the photographs and are available at the Ipswich Historical Society. All other loaned materials were returned to the lenders and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Related Material
Also found at the Archives of American Art are the William H. Elsner papers relating to Arthur Wesley Dow, which include color photographs of Dow's works of art and correspondence regarding Dow between Frederick Moffatt and Rudolph Schaeffer.
Location of Originals
Several photographs, including images of Dow, Dow family members, group photographs of classes, and landscapes, are copy prints. The original vintage prints for some of these copies, particularly group photographs of classes and landscapes, are available at the Ipswich Historical Society. The location of the other original vintage prints is unknown.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Processing Information
The collection received preliminary processing after being donated in 1975 and 1989, and before portions of it were microfilmed on reels 1208-1209. The collection was fully processed, arranged, and described in accordance with archival standards by Kathleen Brown in 2008 as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Grant.