Calligraphy as an Artistic Style

Mark Tobey, After the Imprint, 1961. Gouache on illustration board, 39 1/4 x 27 3/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1962 © 2015 Mark Tobey / Seattle Art Museum, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Tobey saw the potential of his calligraphic style to reconcile the rational and irrational forces of humankind and arrive at a “unified world,” one that mirrored the union of the polarizing yin-yang principles in Asian calligraphy. In this mature work, Tobey layered strokes of white, black, and beige in an all-over pattern suggestive of the unseen energies of the cosmos.

In 1947, American critic Clement Greenberg deemed Tobey a product of the “School of Klee”—a classification that Tobey wore proudly, later professing to his dealer his “kinship to Klee.” Late in life, while living in Basel, Tobey acquired a drawing by Klee.

This work is on view in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee through May 6, 2018.

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