Desert, 1920<img alt="" src="/sites/GovernorsMansion/Exhibitions/PublishingImages/Art-of-Illinois/Dawson-Desert.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />Desert, 1920<div class="ExternalClassDBC9E108AC024AC798A027F505E7A223"><p>​​When he painted <em>Desert</em>, Manierre Dawson likely had never experienced such terrain firsthand. Still, rhythmic lines and shapes in warm gold colors call to mind the graceful loops and whorls of wind-carved stone or sand. Rising above a curving line that suggests a horizon are spiky dark forms like the angular limbs of denuded trees. Dawson does not depict the desert landscape so much as he creates a non-objective composition from conventional ideas of its characteristic colors and forms. Like the desert landscape itself, Dawson's composition is both beautiful and forbidding, inviting and alien, saturated with light and infused with mystery. </p><p>With little formal instruction in art, Dawson began making highly original paintings while still in high school in his native Chicago. He was working as an architectural draftsman when in 1910 he made what are now considered among the earliest entirely non-objective paintings, independent of the experimental abstraction then being developed by avant-garde European and American artists. </p><p>Later in 1910, Dawson visited Europe and New York. Encouraged by his encounters there with contemporary art and artists, he participated in several American exhibitions. Yet in 1915, he withdrew from the art scene and also abandoned architecture, moving to rural Ludington, Michigan, to take up fruit farming. Ever an experimentalist, Dawson continued to paint, however, and he also began making sculpture. Although his exile from the art world was self-imposed, the bleak mood of <em>Desert </em>may reflect the artist's sense of isolation and discouragement, while the rounded forms near the center of the painting, some tinted red and green, evoke the fruit whose cultivation was then occupying most of his daily attention. Only slowly, in the decades since his death, has Dawson's artistic achievement received its due recognition.</p></div>GP0|#ba8125dc-a768-4746-879e-56e056bb6de6;L0|#0ba8125dc-a768-4746-879e-56e056bb6de6|Manierre Dawson;GTSet|#6a9f5109-021d-478a-ae73-864102492159;GPP|#9d68cbd3-25f3-49f0-8924-6cbe6cdb2f21;GPP|#be65f490-4890-487c-bb16-c396d99511f7Art;#TemporaryPainting Oil;#Painting Oil on Masonite;#Chicago, IllinoisOil on Masonite, 22 × 28 inches, Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum, Gift of Dr. Lewis Obi, Frank McKeown, and Lefferts Mabie