Mark Tobey


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“A painting should be a textile, texture. That’s enough! Perhaps I was influenced by my mother. She used to sew and sew.” Mark Tobey

Influences from a builder-carpenter father and a seamstress mother have enriched the multifaceted work of a major protean artist: painter, poetand composer.

« Like Kandinsky, Klee and Mondrian, Tobey sees the highest reality as spiritual rather than physical. » William Chapin Seitz

At the crossroads between European Cubism and Asian painting, Mark Tobey’s work is above all spiritual,  drawing resources from Oriental religions and philosophies: Zen and Baha’I which he discovered during his numerous trips to Asia, the Near and Middle East.

A pioneer in the use of sign in painting, Tobey learned Chinese calligraphy, especially through his decisive encounter with the Chinese painter TengKuei in 1923.

Trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mark Tobey is none the less fundamentally self taught, exploring the multiple possibilities of using abstraction: with Jackson Pollock, he is one of the first to have used the innovative technique of allover as early as 1944 with his white writings – overlays of white color completely covering his calligraphic writing – then tending towards more and more abstract works, in tune with a way of life that was becoming progressively more meditative and contemplative.

Close to the great dealer, Ernst Beyelerwho was his neighbor and friend, Mark Tobey divided his life between the United States and Switzerland.

In 1959, Mark Tobey was the first American artist since James Whistler to win the InternationalPrize for Painting at the Venice Biennale.

« His art, though unassuming, is nonetheless a continual dialogue with the spirit. There are the Tablets of the Law whose indecipherable writing often moves us like messages from another world » Michel Ragon


Major public collections

Bâle, Kunstmuseum
Bruxelles, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique
Londres, Tate Gallery
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
New-York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMa)
New-York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
San Francisco, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Venise, Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Washington, The Phillips Collection
Washington, Smithsonian American Art Museum


Selected exhibitions

Painting and Sculpture by Living Americans exhibition, Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), New York, 1930-31
Rétrospective, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, 1934
Mark Tobey retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1951
American Painting, Tate Gallery, Londres, 1956
Rétrospective, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 1961
Rétrospective, Museum of Modern Art, New York / Phillips Collection, Washington, 1962
Mark Tobey: Works 1933-1966, Rétrospective, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1966
Rétrospective, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, 1968
Tribute to Mark Tobey, Smithsonian Institution, National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington / Seattle Art Museum, Seattle / City Art Museum, St. Louis, 1974-75
Rétrospective, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1997-98
Mark Tobey, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 2001


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