THE NORTHWEST SCHOOL
The Northwest School emerged in the 1920s as a direct response to European modernism, which had been gaining popularity domestically since the turn of the century. Across the United States, abstract and conceptual styles were conglomerating around regional art markets, each representing their own form a new American modernism. In Seattle, a group of artists using the natural imagery of the Pacific Northwest began to gain notoriety, identified by their subtle handling of the region’s earth tone color palette and lighting characteristics. They were known as the Northwest School.
Though some artists eschewed the idea of a unified school in the Seattle / Skagit County region, art historians and journalists generally agree that a common aesthetic existed as early as 1930. This movement was led by a small group of artists, whom have since come to be known as “the big four”: Mark Tobey (1890-1976), Guy Anderson (1906-1998), Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986), and Morris Graves (1910-2001). In addition to a shared color palette and iconographic commonalities, the big four also explored certain Asian and Native American motifs, and were heavily influenced by burgeoning European styles, such as surrealism and cubism.
The Northwest School was at its peak during the 1930s and 1940s, and boasted a vast and eclectic stable of artists. The work was distinctly regional in composition but was international in appeal. Exhibitions across the globe included the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and even the Louvre.
The work of Northwest School artists is held in institutional collections around the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Tate in London, the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Northwest Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Western Washington Landscape
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