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Spring Landscape

Arthur Wesley Dow

Artwork Details

Spring Landscape
Arthur Wesley Dow
oil on canvas
39 x 32 3/8 x 3 in. (99.06 x 82.23 x 7.62 cm);39 x 32 3/8 x 3 in. (99.06 x 82.23 x 7.62 cm)
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker


March 28 2009
As part of a self-imposed program of study of the art of non-Western cultures, Arthur Wesley Dow visited the Boston Public Library in 1891 and discovered Japanese woodblock prints. “One evening with Hokusai,” he said, “gave me more light on composition and decorative effect than years of study of pictures. I surely ought to compose in an entirely different manner.” Spring Landscape, a depiction of flowering trees flanking a rustic path, was painted a year after that visit, and the influence of Japanese art is evident in its asymmetrically arranged composition, strong dynamic lines, and vibrant blocks of color. The decorative accents of the blossoms and dark trunks set against the overcast sky and the green sward of rising landscape flatten spatial recession, and the subdued but saturated colors are woven into a delicate harmony. Painting for Dow was “visual music,” a rhythmic harmony of colored spaces, rather than a transcription of what was seen. Instead of striving to imitate nature, he believed in accentuating its inherent spiritual beauty through the careful balance of compositional elements such as line, color, and notan, a Japanese term for the relationship between light and dark areas in a pictorial space. Dow became an influential teacher, and his unorthodox principles of composition, set out in a book of that name, redefined the teaching of art in the United States for several generations.

Subject Matter:

This work is indicative of the influence Japanese prints had on Dow’s work, and his subsequent emphasis on elements such as line, mass and color. In “Spring Landscape” Dow utilizes strong dynamic line, a high horizon line, flattened space, asymmetry, vibrant colors, and a simplification of form to represent a scene of nature at the height of spring.

Physical Description:

Landscape painting depicting a dirt pathway with steps and a wooden railing cutting through the center of the composition leading to a house on a hill in the distance. On either side of the path are blooming trees bearing pink and white blossoms in a green meadow.

Usage Rights:

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