Who was the painter Mark Tobey?

Mark Tobey was an American painter greatly influenced by Asian philosophies and calligraphy. The painter developed a unique visual language consisting of a whirling mass of calligraphic marks. A pioneer of all-over painting, Tobey had a profound impact on Jackson Pollock’s work.

Mark Tobey was born on 11 December 1890 in Centerville, Wisconsin. In 1911, Tobey moved to New York, where he worked for a time as a fashion designer and portrait painter. In 1913, he was a student at the Art Institute de Chicago. Tobey then converted to the Baháʼí faith, an Abrahamic and monotheistic religion teaching the spiritual unity of humanity. The artist’s spirituality was inextricably linked to his artistic practice. Tobey began teaching at the Cornish School of Allied Arts in Seattle, Washington, in 1922. It was there that he met the Chinese student Teng Kuei, who taught him calligraphy. The meeting between the two marked a crucial juncture in Tobey’s development as an artist.

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