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Morris Graves, Crow, Surf and Moon

Morris Graves, Crow, Surf and Moon (1943), ink and transparent and opaque watercolor on light weight beige Japaense paper, now mounted on rag board [Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA, Jun 19-Sep 7] © Morris Graves Foundation / Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Modernism in the Pacific Northwest:
The Mythic and the Mystical

Seattle Art Museum
Seattle WA – Jun 19-Sep 7, 2014

Mark Tobey, Esquimaux Idiom

Mark Tobey, Esquimaux Idiom (1946), tempera with graphite on composition board [Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA, Jun 19-Sep 7] © Mark Tobey / Seattle Art Museum / Photo: Paul Macapia

Mark Tobey, Rummage

Mark Tobey, Rummage (1941), tempera and opaque watercolour on paperboard [Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA, Jun 19-Sep 7] © Mark Tobey / Seattle Art Museum / Photo: Paul Macapia

The Northwest Mystics were a tight group of artists and friends whose work in the late 1930s and ’40s was at the vanguard outside the prevalent notions of Modernism that were centred in New York and Europe.

Four main painters from the Seattle area contributed to this emerging genre – the Northwest School: Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Guy Anderson and Kenneth Callahan. Their work shared many visual attributes, most obvious being the muted, earthy palette reflected in the atmosphere of the moody Northwest environment. The artists also shared an interest in Asian aesthetics and saw art as a form of spiritual quest. Other artists associated with this movement include Leo Kenney, Paul Horiuchi, George Tsutakawa and Phil McCracken.

When the Seattle Art Museum opened in 1933, founding director Richard Fuller and his successor, Marshall Hatch, gave special consideration to supporting artists from Seattle as part of the institution’s mission to help local talent gain national prominence. Fuller collected works by these Northwest School artists for the museum and encouraged patrons to do the same. Marshall and Helen Hatch built a personal collection that complemented the museum’s holdings and helped fully define this rich period of Northwest Modernism. Thanks to a bequest, the Seattle Art Museum recently acquired the Hatch collection.

This exhibition of 125 works highlights this unique genre and its key players, and assesses the artistic activity that gave rise to the Northwest School. An accompanying publication further investigates the intertwined histories of the Northwest Modernists and the Seattle Art Museum.


Allyn Cantor

 Fri, Jun 6, 2014