The Art and Influence of John Dowell: An Exhibition from Special Collections

By Administrator RSS Mon, September 18, 2023

by Laura S. and Karen K.

In 1967, the Print and Picture Collection at Parkway Central Library purchased a print by a young Philadelphia artist named John Dowell. That first acquisition led to a relationship that has spanned 50 years. More recently, Dowell generously organized donations of his work and the work of other artists to the Free Library. The Free Library's Special Collections Division's new exhibition The Art and Influence of John Dowell celebrates this relationship and explores Dowell's life as an artist and educator.

For those of you not familiar with the work of John Dowell, you are in for a treat. Born in 1941, Dowell grew up in North Philadelphia and attended public school. He took Saturday morning art classes at Fleisher Art Memorial through the School Art League, an art program of the Philadelphia School District. He studied printmaking and ceramics at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, graduating in 1963. He is the first Black artist to complete master printer training at the acclaimed Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles, and he earned a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking and drawing at the University of Washington in Seattle. After 46 years of teaching, Dowell is now a professor emeritus of printmaking at the Tyler School of Art. Now in his 80s, Dowell continues to be ablaze with a creative force. His most recent photographic work includes cityscapes and an exploration of cotton.

The Art and Influence of John Dowell will be on view through Saturday, March 2, 2024. The exhibition spans two floors of Parkway Central Library. The Dietrich Gallery on the Third Floor features prints and photographs from John Dowell's life as an artist and teacher, including work by his students who studied with Dowell at Tyler School of Art. The Special Collections Gallery on the Second Floor features artwork donated to the Free Library by Dowell, including lithographs created at Tamarind Lithography Workshop in the 1960s.

Watch an intimate conversation between John Dowell and Dr. Brittany Webb, the Evelyn and Will Kaplan Curator of 20th Century Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The video was recorded live at Parkway Central Library on December 6, 2023, as part of the Fifth Annual Pepper Forum, presented by the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation in partnership with the Free Library Special Collections Division.




See events related to The Art and Influence of John DowellEvents

During Black History Month, check out the Events page for related programs and tours, including a series of free printmaking programs at neighborhood libraries.






Visit the exhibition's Spotify playlistSpotify Playlist

Music has always played an important role in John Dowell’s work. We’ve created a playlist of musicians that inspired him.






View more blog posts related to The Art and Influence of John DowellLearn More

Check this page throughout the exhibition for special blog posts related to The Art and Influence of John Dowell, including a look at Tamarind Lithography Workshop founder June Wayne and a post about artists influenced by Dowell.





The Art and Influence of John Dowell would not exist without the generosity of John Dowell himself. We’d also like to thank members of the Exhibition Review Committee, former students of John Dowell, and additional donors Frances Savage, Ron Rumford, Michael Buckley, Lisa Kabnick, and John McFadden. The exhibition would not have been possible without the work of staff members from the Free Library of Philadelphia across many divisions and departments, particularly Special Collections, the Graphic Design Studio, and Collection Care. Sincere thanks to the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired for providing accessibility features.

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John Dowell offers to the world the privilege of being in the midst of an artist whose work will be forever celebrated.
Johnny E Parham Jr - New York
Tuesday, October 17, 2023