Mark Tobey



Mark Tobey (1890–1976) was an American painter. He was born in Centerville, Wisconsin and studied at the Art Institute in Chicago, yet he was to a great extent self-taught.

Tobey co-founded the Northwest School which advocated freedom and creativity. Tobey showed a strong interest in philosophy and Eastern religions, and he converted to the Bahá'í faith. His many travels took him to Mexico, Europe, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, Japan and China, where he stayed in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1934.

Tobey is known for his densely structured compositions, inspired by Asian calligraphy, which became known as “white writing”. Writing and calligraphy as such played an important role in his painting. His abstract compositions are characterized by calligraphic strokes and an oriental brushwork. He is generally considered a precursor of American abstract expressionism and a reference for Jackson Pollock's drippings. In 1958, Tobey garnered the International Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale.



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