Mark Tobey (American, 1890–1976) Flame of Colors, 1974. Color lithograph on paper, 25 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. The Elizabeth Cole Butler Graphic Arts Collection, Bequest to the Museum, 2004.

Mark Tobey and the Calligraphic Line

February 18, 2017 to May 21, 2017

This rotation features a selection of works by Pacific Northwest artist Mark Tobey (1890–1976) from the JSMA’s collection, including new acquisitions from the Elizabeth Cole Butler Estate. The paintings and lithographs on view demonstrate how Tobey’s signature “white writing,” calligraphic marks that conveyed energy and light, appears in different media. Tobey studied traditional Asian calligraphy, Zen philosophy, meditation, and haiku poetry at a monastery outside Kyoto, Japan, for a month in 1934. This experience helped shape his way of thinking about his own art. He developed his “white writing” over the following decade in response to what he saw as a significant difference between the formal concerns of Western artists (more focused on mass) and Asian artists (more focused on line). The exhibition was organized by Danielle Knapp, McCosh Associate Curator.