Arthur Bowen Davies

An artist who ventured across many lines in his art, Arthur Bowen Davies often rendered his own interpretations of ancient myths, combining motifs drawn from everyday life with elements from the realm of fantasy. Adopting a Symbolist attitude, he used the form of the nude to explore themes of beauty, grace, movement, emotion, and sensuous experience. In this respect, he broke ties with American Victorianism, advocating artistic freedom of expression. (

It seems that Davies, obscure today, was well-known and made a good living as an artist. Plus, it seems he had an interesting life, having one legal wife along with another, secret de facto one, both with his children. This and his artistic career are well-covered elsewhere; see links above. (

Davies was not only defined as a visionary seer: he was also regarded as an important modern artist whose work was both transcendent and very real. In the words of one supporter, he was equally “a realist and a mystic.”

In calling him a “painter of dreams,” critics characterized Davies as an artist keenly attentive to the diverse power of the unconscious mind. Dreams suggested its ability to slip free of the tethers of rationality, accessing forms of perception closely attuned to magic, mystery and spiritual meaning. Davies was a devoted follower of Theosophy, interested in exploring the kinds of interior perceptual states that Helena Blavatsky argued were a crucial means of accessing higher realms of spiritual significance. But scientists such as American psychologist William James also examined dreams in their attempt to understand the human unconscious. James studied trances and dreams as he pursued the integration of spiritual and psychic processes in the 1890s. Davies’s work thus spoke to viewers across an illusory boundary separating psychology from mystical belief.
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First Collected by

Jeremy Donaldson


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