It’s Day 74 and I have a brief rest from roofing mayhem. 🙂 Been doing little fix-it things around the house and getting quotes on painting the exterior…which will start in a couple weeks. Thank god painting is much quieter than building a roof. It’ll be awesome when people aren’t outside repairing my house at all. I had a good time painting today’s tribute…let’s celebrate Morris Graves!
Morris Cole Graves (August 28, 1910 – May 5, 2001) was an American expressionist painter. Along with Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan,William Cumming, and Mark Tobey, he founded the Northwest School. Graves was also a mystic.
Born the sixth son of a Methodist family in Fox Valley, Oregon, his family moved to Seattle
in 1911. He was a self-taught artist with natural understandings of color and line.
Graves dropped out of high school after his sophomore year and sailed on three American Mail Line ships with his brother Russell. Upon arriving in Japan, he wrote:
“There, I at once had the feeling that this was the right way to do everything. It was the acceptance of nature not the resistance to it. I had no sense that I was to be a painter, but I breathed a different air.”
Although he attended high school in 1932 in Beaumont, Texas at the urging of his aunt, Graves returned to the Northwest before actually graduating and never got his high school diploma. He spent much of his professional life in Seattle and La Conner, Washington, sharing a studio for a while with Guy Anderson. Graves’ early work was in oils and focused on birds touched with strangeness, either blind, or wounded, or immobilized in webs of light.
In the early 1930s, Graves studied Zen Buddhism. In 1934, Graves built a small
studio on family property in Edmonds, Washington, that burned to the ground in 1935, and with it, almost all of his work. His first one-man exhibition was in 1936 in Seattle’s Art Museum (SAM). In May 1937, he bought 20 acres (81,000 m2) on Fidalgo Island. In 1939, he began working on the WPA Federal Art Project, but only for a few months. It was there that he met Mark Tobey and became impressed with Tobey’s calligraphic line. Later in the year, Graves went to the Virginia Islandsand to Puerto Rico to paint.
In 1940, Graves began building a house, which he named The Rock, on his Fidalgo Island property, and befriended an architect, George Nakashima, who had recently visited Japan. He lived at The Rock with a succession of cats and dogs, all called Edith, in honor of poet Edith Sitwell.
In 1942, his paintings were part of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s
“Americas 1942” exhibit, bringing Graves national recognition.
In 1952 photographer Dody Weston Thompson used part of her Albert M. Bender grant to photo document the unique home and surroundings of Graves who she considered a close friend.
In 1954, Graves staged the first Northwest art “Happening”, sending invitations to everyone on the Seattle Art Museum mailing list:
“You or your friends are not invited to the exhibition of Bouquet and Marsh paintings by the 8 best painters in the Northwest to be held on the afternoon and evening of the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, June 21, at Morris Graves’ palace in exclusive Woodway Park.”
In September 1954, Life Magazine did an article on “The Mystic Painters of the
Northwest,” featuring Graves, and including Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, and Mark Tobey; this changed his life.
His mid-career works were influenced by East Asian philosophy and mysticism, which he used it as a way of approaching nature directly, avoiding theory. Graves adopted certain elements of Chinese and Japanese art, including the use of thin paper and ink drawing. His painted birds, pine trees, and waves. Graves works, such as “Blind Bird” often contain elements of Mark Tobey, who was inspired by Asian calligraphy. Graves switched from oils to gouaches, his bird became psychedelic, mystic, en route to transcendence. The paintings were bold, applied in a thick impasto with a palette knife, sometimes on coarse feed sacks.
In the 1950s, Graves returned to oils, but also painted in watercolor and tempera. From 1954 through 1964, Graves lived in Ireland and sculpted.
Biography is from wikipedia.
I decided to focus this blog on Grave’s bird paintings because I wanted to paint a bird. 🙂 I enjoyed this painting very much and I was excited to experiment with it. I hope you enjoy my tribute and I will see you tomorrow on Day 75!