Mark Tobey


Mark Tobey was born in Centerville, Wisconsin, United States on December 11th, 1890 and is the Painter. At the age of 85, Mark Tobey biography, profession, age, height, weight, eye color, hair color, build, measurements, education, career, dating/affair, family, news updates, and networth are available.

Date of Birth
December 11, 1890
United States
Place of Birth
Centerville, Wisconsin, United States
Death Date
Apr 24, 1976 (age 85)
Zodiac Sign
Mark Tobey Height, Weight, Eye Color and Hair Color

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Mark Tobey Religion, Education, and Hobbies
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School of the Art Institute of Chicago
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Mark Tobey Career

Tobey's arrival in Seattle in 1921 was in part an effort for a new start following a marriage and quick divorce. When his ex-wife found Tobey's address, she sent him a box of his clothes topped with a copy of Rudyard Kipling's The Light That Failed. In the following year, Tobey met Teng Kuei, a Chinese painter and student at the University of Washington, who introduced Tobey to Eastern penmanship, beginning Tobey's exploration of Chinese calligraphy. The beginning of his lifelong travels occurred in 1925 when he left for Europe, settling in Paris where Tobey met Gertrude Stein. He spent a winter at Châteaudun, and also traveled to Barcelona and Greece. In Constantinople, Beirut and Haifa, he studied Arab and Persian writing.

Upon returning to Seattle in 1927, Tobey shared a studio in a house near the Cornish School (with which he was intermittently associated) with the teenage artist, Robert Bruce Inverarity, who was 20 years younger. Inspired by Inverarity's high-school project, Tobey developed interest in three-dimensional form and carved some 100 pieces of soap sculpture. The next year, Tobey co-founded the Free and Creative Art School in Seattle with Edgar Ames, and in autumn, he taught an advanced art course at Emily Carr's Victoria studio.

In 1929, he participated in a show that marked a change in his life: a solo exhibition at Romany Marie's Cafe Gallery in New York. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., then a curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), saw the show and selected several pictures from it for inclusion in MoMA's 1930 exhibition: Painting and Sculpture by Living Americans. In 1931, Tobey became a resident artist of the Elmhurst Progressive School while teaching at Dartington Hall in Devon and painting frescoes for the school. He became a close friend of Bernard Leach, who was also on the faculty. Introduced by Tobey to the Baháʼí Faith, Leach became a convert. During his stay in Devon, Tobey found time to travel to Mexico (1931), Europe, and Palestine (1932). In 1934, Tobey and Leach traveled together through France and Italy, then sailed from Naples to Hong Kong and Shanghai, where they parted company. Leach went on to Japan, while Tobey remained in Shanghai visiting his old friend, Teng Kuei, before departing for Japan. Japanese authorities confiscated and destroyed an edition of 31 drawings on wet paper that Tobey had brought with him from England to be published in Japan. No explanation for their destruction has been noted; possibly they considered his sketches of nude men pornographic. In early summer, he studied Hai-Ku poetry and calligraphy at a Zen monastery outside Kyoto before returning to Seattle in autumn.

Tobey's first solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum occurred in 1935; he also traveled to New York, Washington, D.C., Alberta, Canada, as well as Haifa for a Baháʼí pilgrimage. Sometime in November or December, while working at night at Dartington Hall and listening to the horses breathe in the field outside his window, he painted a series of three paintings, Broadway, Welcome Hero, and Broadway Norm, in the style that would become known as "white writing" (an interlacing of fine white lines).

Tobey expected to return to teaching in England in 1938, but the mounting tensions of war building in Europe kept him in the US. Instead, he began to work on the Federal Art Project, under the supervision of Inverarity. In June 1939, when Tobey attended a Baháʼí summer program and overstayed his allotted vacation time, Inverarity dropped him from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Tobey met the Swedish scholar, Pehr Hallsten (died 1965, Basel), in Ballard in 1939 and they became companions, living together from 1940. By 1942, Tobey's process of abstractionism was accompanied by a new calligraphic experiment. Marian Willard of the Willard Gallery in New York had seen some of Tobey's WPA paintings and gave him a show in 1944, which was considered to be a major success. In 1945, he gave a solo exhibition at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, and the Arts Club of Chicago held solo shows of his work in 1940 and 1946. He studied the piano and the theory of music with Lockrem Johnson, and, when Johnson was away, with Wesley Wehr, who was introduced to Tobey in 1949 by their pianist friend Berthe Poncy Jacobson. Wehr, an undergraduate at the time, happily accepted the opportunity to serve as a stand-in music composition tutor for Tobey and over time became friends with him and his circle of artists, becoming a painter himself, as well as a chronicler of the group.

Tobey showed at New York's Whitney Museum in 1951. He also spent three months as guest critic of graduate students' work at Yale University on the invitation of Josef Albers, and had his first retrospective show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. In 1952, the film "Tobey, Mark: Artist" debuted in the Venice and Edinburgh film festivals. Acknowledging "academic responsibility," Hallsten enrolled in graduate school at the University of Washington's department of Scandinavian languages and literature in the early 1950s and, after receiving his master's degree, Tobey began referring to him by the honorific, Professor.

On September 28, 1953, Life magazine published an article on Tobey, Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, and Morris Graves entitled, "Mystic Painters of the Northwest," which placed them in the national limelight. The four were considered founders of the Northwest School. He held a solo show at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher in Paris in 1955, and traveled to Basel and Bern. He began his ink wash paintings two years later. In 1958, he became the second American, after James Abbott McNeill Whistler, to win the International Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale.

Tobey and Hallsten emigrated to Basel, Switzerland in the early 1960s. Tobey, who had been an incessant traveler in earlier years,(Etulain 1996, p. 134) concentrated on his art, while Hallsten felt restless and traveled through Europe, returning to Basel. In 1960, Tobey participated in the Association of Visual Artists Vienna Secession, and in the following year, he became the first American painter to exhibit at the Pavillon de Marsan in Paris. Solo exhibits occurred at MoMa in 1962, and at the Stedelijk Museum in 1966, the same year that he visited the Baháʼí World Center in Haifa. In 1967, he showed again at the Willard Gallery, and held a retrospective show at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts the following year. Another major retrospective of the artist's work took place at the Smithsonian's National Collection of Fine Arts in 1974. Tobey died in Basel in 1976.

In 2017 (from 6 May to 17 September), an important retrospective exhibition of Tobey's mature work was mounted in Venice, Italy, sponsored by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art Philips Academy of Andover, Massachusetts, and curated by Debra Bricker Balken. The exhibition was able to draw crowds from the Venice Biennale, gaining international attention and spurring an international reassessment of Tobey's significance before traveling to the Addison Gallery of American Arts, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts and exhibited 4 November 2017 to 11 March 2018.


Mark Tobey Awards
  • 1968, "Commander, Arts and the Letters of the French Government"
  • 1961, won first prize, Carnegie International, Pittsburgh
  • 1959, became the first American since James McNeill Whistler to win the Painting Prize at the Venice Biennale
  • 1956, elected at the National Institute of Arts and Letters
  • 1956, Guggenheim International Award