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Morris Graves (1910 - 2001)



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A surrealist and mystic by nature, Morris Graves is perhaps the most enigmatic of the Northwest School’s “big four.” Graves is known for his incorporation of Eastern spirituality and symbolism into his artwork, often using the images of the bird or “inner eye” to communicate his own form of transcendental philosophy. Though he exhibited widely during his time, the artist was somewhat of a recluse, preferring the solitude of his island home (which he nicknamed, “the Rock”) to the hustle and bustle of urban Seattle.

Graves rose to prominence in 1942, when Dorothy C. Miller, curator for New York’s MoCA, included the artist in a show at the museum, entitled “Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States.” Over the ensuing years of his career, Graves exhibited at prestigious museums throughout the United States, including the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Phillips Collection in Washington. Prior to his death, the artist created the Morris Graves Foundation, which turned his idyllic home into an artist’s retreat. The Morris Graves Museum of Art in Eureka, California bears his name, and holds his work in its permanent collection.