Page 53

seem to jump off the page. otherwise, the strongest tonal contrasts appear between the white blossoms and their dark stems. Perhaps inspired by his interest in notan, Dow manipulated composition and light to create a dynamic image of flowers in an artificial environment.


While irises is a staged scene, Flowers with Pods shows flowers in their natural setting (fig. 25). the whole composition is on an angle; the blossoms are shown on a slight diagonal amidst a thick underbrush of other plants, which are also slightly titled off axis. Dow manipulated the scene in order to produce an image that complemented his theories of Japanese art by framing the photograph at an atypical angle, probably achieved by crouching down while tilting the camera up. With the stronger juxtaposition of light and shadow in this photograph, notan is more severe here than in irises. the natural light in this scene makes the shadows darker and the highlights brighter. in fact, the dark background, despite it different textures, enhances the brightness of the blossoms and appears to flatten them. this flattening of form and space echoes the style of the Japanese prints that Dow studied.

two vases with irises and Flowers with Pods demonstrate how Dow translated the Japanese elements of style in notan from woodblock prints to photography. in addition, these photographs show how Japanese aesthetics could be used on both natural and artificial subjects. Dow manipulated both photographs to achieve what he believed was “true” art—art that sent a direct message of beauty and harmony to the viewer through composition, line, and light.


trevor Fairbrother, ipswich Days: Arthur Wesley Dow and His Hometown (New Haven, Ct: yale University Press, 2007), 10–11.


Nancy E. green and Jessie Poesch, Arthur Wesley Dow and American Arts and Crafts (New york: American Federation of Arts, 1999), 59.


green and Poesch, Arthur Wesley Dow, 60–61; Nancy E. green, Arthur Wesley Dow and His influence (New york: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, 1990), 7–8.


green, Arthur Wesley Dow, 9.


Arthur Wesley Dow, Composition: a series of exercises in art structure for the use of students and teachers, 9th ed. (New york: Doubleday, 1919), 64.


Frederick C. Moffatt, “Composition,” in Arthur Wesley Dow (1857–1922): His Art and influence, ed. Nancy E. green (New york: spanierman gallery, 1999), 39.


richard Boyle, “Arthur Wesley Dow: American sensei,” in Arthur Wesley Dow (1857–1922): His Art and influence, ed. Nancy E. green (New york: spanierman gallery, 1999), 81.


Dow, Composition, 67.


ibid, 68.


ibid, 85.


green, Arthur Wesley Dow, 76.




Barbara Michaels, “Arthur Wesley Dow and Photography,” in Arthur Wesley Dow (1857–1922): His Art and influence, ed. Nancy E. green (New york: spanierman gallery, 1999), 85. Michaels reproduces another version of Worcester Art Museum’s Flowers with Pods in her discussion of Dow’s use of the cyanotype. in this other version, Dow likely exposed the cyanotype for a shorter amount of time since the blue tones are significantly lighter. ibid., 84, fig. 66.


Dow, Composition, 79.

Fig. 25: Arthur Wesley Dow, American, 1857-1922, Flowers with Pods, about 1900, cyanotype, Worcester Art Museum, sarah C. garver Fund, 1997.74 51

Cyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period  

Cyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period Edited by Nancy Kathryn Burns, Assistant Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Kristina Wilson...