Arthur Wesley Dow

Arthur Wesley Dow

This striking portrait, a vintage waxed platinum or palladium print of the American painter, printmaker and arts educator Arthur Wesley Dow, (1857-1922) was believed taken around 1908 by his fellow Columbia University Teachers College colleague Clarence H. White. Titled Portrait of an Artist, c. 1908, the image appears full page in the volume Clarence H. White: The Reverence for Beauty, published in 1986 by the Ohio University Gallery of Fine Art. (p. 55). In the volume’s acknowledgment, Henry H. Lin, Director of the gallery, states this and other photographs by White had been presented to the gallery by Mr. and Mrs. Clarence H. White, Jr. “some twelve years ago” (1974-editor). The rear of the catalogue lists this work as:

29. Portrait of an Artist

c. 1908

Platinum print

(development flaw)

8 11/16 x 6 1/2  (inches-editor)

Earlier, and by the hand of Herbert Arthur Hess?

At this time, three other versions of this portrait by Clarence White are also known to exist in the collection of the Princeton University Art Museum: 1. mounted waxed platinum print; 2. mounted platinum print; 3. mounted and framed platinum print: a copy made by White after American photographer Herbert Arthur Hess.

In the volume Clarence H. White and his World: The Art & Craft of Photography, 1895-1925 by Anne McCauley-2017-Princeton University Art Museum, this portrait of Dow is published on p. 246 (it also appears in the accompanying traveling exhibit) as part of her chapter: Beyond The Classroom: White As A Teacher. A supporting footnote further elucidates the reader on another potential author of this Dow portrait- photographer Herbert Arthur Hess:

36. A photographic portrait of Dow in the Princeton University Art Museum collection has been attributed to White, but the glass negative shows that it was shot from another print held up by tacks. White noted in a December 18, 1922, letter to Day (Fred Holland-editor) that “From the college there are many calls for his [Dow’s] portrait and the most liked one seems to be the work of Mr. Hess. I recognized his mark in red ink in the corner of the print.” LC Day, box 23. White’s account books show payments from Alon Bement, fellow teacher at the Teachers College, and a “Miss Fish” and “Miss Bliss” for Dow portraits in January-February 1923. The original Hess portrait has not been located, but similar photographs dated to 1903 (based on inscriptions) are in the Dow Papers, series 5, box 1, f. 35. (p. 280) (footnote continues, commenting on other portraits of Dow similar to the one on PhotoSeed being post-1900)

The example seen on this website, which at one time had been mounted, is of the same dimensions (22.1 x 16.6 cm) as Princeton’s example listed as 1/3. (accession # x1983-1028) Provenance for this portrait is also intriguing: it was found and purchased in May, 2017 by this archive from an heir to the estate of modern American artist Charles James Martin. (1886-1955) An excerpt of a description by this heir to Martin’s significance:

Martin studied with Arthur Wesley Dow, and later taught alongside him at Columbia University Teachers College. At TC, he also studied photography with Clarence H. White, and became an instructor at White’s School of Photography in 1918. Martin began teaching at the Art Students League of New York in 1921. At Teacher’s College, Georgia O’Keeffe attended his class in 1914-1915.

A small yellowed 1922 obituary notice for Dow was included with the sale of this portrait from an unknown newspaper:

Prof. A.W. Dow, Expert in Japanese Art, Dead

Prof. Arthur Wesley Dow, head of the department of Fine Arts at Teachers College, Columbia University, who died suddenly last Wednesday, was the first man to introduce the Japanese wood block method into the methods of this country. Prof. Dow had been in charge of the art department at Teachers College for the last eighteen years.

For several years he was curator of Japanese art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and prior to coming to Teachers College he was instructor of art at Pratt Institute. He was awarded medals at the Buffalo, Pan-American and Panama-Pacific Expositions for his work. He contributed many magazine articles on art, and was the author of several books. Prof. Dow was a member of the Copley Society, the Society of Arts and Crafts, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, of the Japanese Society and many other artists’ organizations.

Several original etchings and a lithograph by Martin, who also studied at Dow’ Summer School in Ipswich in the early 20th Century can be found on this site.

print notes, verso: Notated in graphite in known hand (statement by heir) by Charles James Martin: Prof. Arthur Dow; small losses to upper left and right corners where print had formerly been attached to primary support; print perhaps printed later up to 1923- possibly used as teaching aid by Martin given multiple examples held by Princeton and known copy by Hess?

print notes, recto: Several slight surface marks to lower portion of print.

Arthur Wesley Dow

Image Dimensions22.1 x 16.6 cm waxed platinum print

Support Dimensionsunmounted