Mark Tobey

  • Born 1890 in Centerville, WI, USA
  • Died 1976 in Basel, Switzerland

Mark Tobey is noted for his nonrepresentational works in multi-layered, allover brushstrokes that evoke Asian calligraphy. He began to study painting at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1906 to 1908, then worked as a fashion illustrator in New York and Chicago from 1911 onward. His early portrait drawings were presented in his first solo exhibition at Knoedler & Co., New York, in 1917. The following year he moved to Seattle, where he first came in contact with the Bahá'í faith and converted. His enduring interest in East Asian philosophy and aesthetics (Chinese calligraphy, Persian and Arabic script) was nurtured by his friendship with the Chinese painter Teng Kuei and his travels abroad. In 1925 Tobey left Seattle for Paris, then traveled in Europe and the Middle East for about two years. His journey to China and Japan in 1934 eventually led to the development of his “white writings.” These abstract compositions in a subdued palette, with dense layers of calligraphic lines, were first exhibited in 1944 at the Willard Gallery, New York. Tobey’s art has been featured in numerous solo and retrospective exhibitions since the early 1960s. He received the Guggenheim International Award (1956) and the International Award for Painting at the Venice Biennale (1958).

Artworks by Mark Tobey in the exhibition