Art is the most valued thing in the world…it is the expression of the highest form of human energy, the creative power nearest to the divine. The power is within - the question is how to reach it. – Arthur Wesley Dow
To accompany Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer, the Addison Gallery of American Art, in Andover, Massachusetts, has organized complementary exhibitions that offer important context for a deeper exploration of O’Keeffe’s work.
Arthur Wesley Dow: Nearest to the Divine, organized by the Addison’s Robert M. Walker Associate Curator of American Art Gordon Wilkins, includes photographs, prints, and paintings by the influential artist and educator Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922), who instructed O’Keeffe (1887–1986) during her time at Teachers College, Columbia University. The exhibition, drawn almost entirely from the Addison’s George and Barbara Wright Collection of works by Arthur Wesley Dow, presents Dow’s work and the ephemera he collected on his global travels, most significantly to Japan, as well as his pioneering theories of composition that had a profound, lifelong influence on O’Keeffe.
Dow’s radically anti-academic, mystical approach to artmaking, with its emphasis on channeling emotion and personal vision through the “the trinity of power” inherent in harmonious design—line, notan (the balance of dark and light), and color rather than faithful representation— is evidenced in the works on view and was a transformative force in O’Keeffe’s artistic practice throughout her life.
On view through July 31, 2022, Arthur Wesley Down: Nearest to the Divine explores the prodigious and multifaceted oeuvre of the Ipswich, Massachusetts-born artist, educator, and theoretician. Featuring over 100 works, this exhibition highlights not only the profound beauty of Dow's groundbreaking artistic contributions across media but reveals his intuitive and inherently democratic approach to artmaking.
"There are two ways of looking at a picture—one as a record of truth, the other as a work of fine art," wrote Dow.
This approach was transmitted to generations of art students in his classroom, most notably O'Keeffe, and through his influential publication Composition, encouraging artists to transcend faithful representation.
Georgia O'Keeffe, Photographer (which premiered at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) is on view through June 12, 2022, and “What Next?” Camera Work and 291 Magazine, through July 31, 2022.