R.A.H. (againstathorn) wrote,

Arthur B. Davies - A Measure of Dreams, ca 1908

What interests me most about Arthur Bowen Davies’s Measure of Dreams is how the artist represents his human subject within the scene. A mysterious nude in the forest, she appears with her head lifted upward, presumably with her eyes closed, as if she were sleepwalking. Cropped short at the ankles and walking straight across our point of view, it doesn't seem like she is physically occupying the rough terrain of our scene but rather superimposed in front of it. Whether intended or not, this quixotic approach invites me to question her relation to the surroundings.

Citing the title of our piece, one could argue that the forest shown in the background is not meant to portray the actual world but rather that of a dream experienced by our subject, providing us with a surreal glimpse inside her subconscious. In presenting such themes on canvas, Davies's lyrical piece was definitely ahead of his time. Furthermore, I believe the natural elements in the background, those heavy clouds and soft contours of the landscape, are meant to communicate the tranquility felt by our subject.

Oh, and I love the brushwork, reminiscent of that found in works from American Tonalist movement. I find myself comparing this particular piece to the work of painter Thomas Dewing, who often use a similar soft technique in his own depictions of unidentified female subjects shown in spacious, static environments. However, while Dewing's women seem to inhabit scenes within the physical world, Davies assigned his muses to journey an alternate state-of-being.

Tags: art for the month of june
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