Mark Tobey (American, 1890–1976) is regarded as a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism. He is most famous for his so-called White Writing—an overlay of white or light-colored calligraphic symbols on an Abstract field, often composed of thousands of small, interwoven brushstrokes. This method gave rise to the type of “all-over” painting style made most famous by Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956). While Tobey’s early works are Figural, his later paintings are increasingly Abstract and contemplative. In 1911, Tobey worked as an illustrator for fashion magazines in New York, and began to study Middle Eastern literature and Eastern philosophy, becoming a member of the Baha'i Faith. After working as an art teacher, he began travelling around the world, first to Europe, then to Persia, Shanghai, and Kyoto, where he visited a cloister and studied Zen painting, haiku poetry, and calligraphy.

In 1944, Tobey had his first solo exhibition in the Willard Gallery in New York, and then in 1951, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in an exhibition that also traveled to San Francisco, Seattle, and Santa Barbara. The exhibition led to his international success, and he then participated in the 1959 and 1964 documenta exhibitions in Kassel, Germany. In 1960, he returned to the United States and settled in Seattle, before moving to Basel, Switzerland, where he lived until his death in 1976. Tobey has had retrospectives at the Smithsonian Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany, and the Foundation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland. His work can be found in most major museum collections in the United States and internationally, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery in London, and the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.


Born in Centerville, WI, USA on December 11th
His family moved to Hammond near Chicago; visited courses at the Art Institute, Chicago, IL
Studied under Frank Zimmerman and Professor Reynolds at the Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Worked as fashion-designer in Chicago, IL
Moved to New York, still working as fashion-designer
Lived alternately in New York, NY and in Chicago; autodidactic artistic studies; has success as a portraitist
Studied calligraphy and composition under Teng Kwei, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Traveled to Akka and Haifa; studied Persian and Arabian literature
Lived alternately in Seattle, Chicago and New York
Travelled to China and Japan; spent time in a cloister of the Zen-Buddhism and studies Zen-painting and calligraphy
Trips to Seattle and New York; back in South-England he created the first 'white writing'
Lived in England
Studied music (flute, piano, composition); friendship with Lyonel Feininger
Katherine Baker Memorial Award, Seattle Art Museum
His painting 'Broadway' was honoured and purchased by the Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY
Artists for Victory Prize
Guggenheim International Award
Honorary Member, National Institute of Arts and Letters
Fine Arts Medal, American Institute of Architects
First Prize for Painting, Biennale, Venice
Moved to Basel
First Prize for Painting, Carnegie International, Pittsburgh
Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Paris
Lived and worked in Basel, Switzerland
Died in Basel, Switzerland on April, 24th


Synchronies: Undercurrrents in Postwar European and American Abstraction, Hackett Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, CA, USA
Auktion 27, Lehr, Auktionshaus und Galerie, Berlin
Künstler der Galerie - Zeichnungen, Bilder, Skulpturen, Fotografien, Galerie Biedermann, Munich, Germany
Contemporary, Cool and Collected, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC, USA
Le Corps et son double, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris, France
The Passionate Gesture, Hackett Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, CA, USA
Jan Bouman Collection, Groninger Museum, Groningen, Netherlands
Shining Spirit: Westheimer Family Collection, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OK, USA
Pathways and Parallels: Roads to Abstract Expressionism, Hollis Taggart Galeries, New York, NY
American Modernists, University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, WY, USA
La Tentation de l'Orient, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris, France
Künstler der Galerie, Galerie Biedermann, Munich, Germany
Wilfrid Moser/Mark Tobey, Galerie Carzaniga GmbH, Basel, Switzerland
Night Sounds: Nocturnal Visions of Mark Tobey and Morris Graves, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle, WA, USA
Inner Worlds Outside, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
Collection 1, NMAO National Museum of Art Osaka, Japan
Light Space, Hachmeister Galerie, Munster, Germany
Peintures et Sculptures, Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne, Switzerland
Little Treasures from the Permanent Collection, Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, FL, USA
Internationale Zeichnungen, Galerie Biedermann, Munich, Germany
Galerie Pudelko, Bonn, Germany (solo)
An American Odyssey, 1950-1980 - Debating Modernism, Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid; Centro de Arte de Salamanca, Spain; Kiosco Alfonso, La Coruna, Spain
Onbegrensd – Unbegrenzt - Roger Raveelmuseum, Machelen, Belgium
Chine - Occident ou l'aventure du signe. Michaux, Tobey, Degottex, Zao Wou-Ki, Shan Sa - Galerie Berthet-Aittouarès, Paris, France
Künstler der Galerie, Galerie Biedermann, Munich, Germany
El Expresionismo Abstracto Americano en las Colecciones Españolas, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vicente, Segovia, Spain
The Edge of Tomorrow - Tobey, Price and Graves from the 1940’s, Museum of Art, University of Oregon; San José Museum of Art, CA, USA
Unaussprechlich schön - Das mystische Paradies in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts - Kunsthalle Erfurt, Germany
Two Friends - Lyonel Feininger, Mark Tobey, Achim Moeller Fine Art, New York, NY
Northwest Mythologies - The Interactions of Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson, Tacoma Art Museum, WA, USA
La collection Jean Planque, Salle St. Jean, Hotel de Ville, Paris, France
Separated Colours of Hachmeister, Hachmeister Galerie, Munster, Germany
Acquisitions Nouvelles, Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne, Switzerland
Abstract works on paper, autour de Mark Tobey, Galerie Darthea Speyer, Paris, France
Mark Tobey - Smashing Forms and Mark Tobey and Friends, Seattle Art, WA, USA
Tobey – Price – Graves, University of Oregon Museum of Art, OR, USA
Klänge des Inneren Auges. Mark Tobey – Morris Graves – John Cage, Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany; Museum Tacoma, Tacoma, WA, USA
Baukunst Galerie, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Mark Tobey - Bilder von 1940 bis 1975, BAUKUNST GALERIE, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Da Kandinsky a Pollock: La vertigine della non-forma, Museo Cantonale d'Arte Lugano, Switzerland
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany (solo)
Galerie Carzaniga + Uecker, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
Hachmeister Galerie, Munster, Germany (solo)
Museum Villa Rot, Burgrieden-Rot, Germany (solo)
The spirituality of the void, Fundacion Bancaja, Valencia, Spain
Asian Influences I, Kurt Lidtke Galleries, Seattle, WA, USA
Hue, Schmidt Bingham Galleries, New York, NY
Zen und die westliche Kunst, Museum Bochum, Germany
Kurt Lidtke Galleries, Seattle, WA, USA (solo)
Galerie Biedermann, Munich, Germany (solo)
Native American Influences on 1930s & 1940s Modernists, David FIndlay Jr. FIne Art, New York, NY
Cross-Currents in Modern Art, Achim Moeller Fine Art, New York, NY
Galerie Carzaniga + Uecker, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Germany (solo)
Kurt Lidtke Galleries, Seattle, WA, USA (solo)
Closeness of Distance, Khmer Skulpturen und Mark Tobey Bilder, Emil Mirzakhanian, Milan, Italy and Hachmeister Galerie, Munster, Germany
Kurt Lidtke Galleries, Seattle, WA, USA (solo)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain (solo)
Baukunst Galerie, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Luhring Augustine, New York, NY
Baukunst Galerie, Cologne, Germany
Galerie Lea Gredt, Luxemberg
Valley Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner, WA, USA
Galerie Jeanne Bucher, FIAC, Paris, France
"Mark Tobey Retrospective", Ruth S. Shaffner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Retrospective, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian, Washington, DC, USA
Retrospective, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, TX, USA
Willard Gallery, New York, NY
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (solo)
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
Retrospective, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, subsidiary of the Louvre, Paris, France
film “Tobey Mark: Artist” debuted in the Venice Film Festival and Edinburgh Film Festival
(first retrospective), California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA, USA
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (group)
Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, USA (solo)


Heiner Hachmeister (ed.), Mark Tobey Light Space, Muenster 2004
Heiner Hachmeister (ed.), Mark Tobey Werke / Oeuvres 1945-1975, Muenster 1991