Partner Pehr Hallsten, Mark Ritter
St. Alban-Vorstadt 69, 4052 Basel
Friedhof am Hörnli, Hörnliallee 70, 4125 Riehen, Switzerland
Mark Tobey (December 11, 1890 – April 24, 1976) was an American painter. His densely structured compositions, inspired by Asian calligraphy, resemble Abstract expressionism, although the motives for his compositions differ philosophically from most Abstract Expressionist painters. His work was widely recognized throughout the United States and Europe. Along with Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, Morris Graves, and William Cumming,
Tobey was a founder of the Northwest School. Senior in age and experience, he had a strong influence on the others; friend and mentor, Tobey shared his interest in philosophy and Eastern religions. Similar to others of the Northwest School, Tobey was mostly self-taught after early studies at the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 1921, Tobey founded the art department at The Cornish School in Seattle, Washington.
Tobey met the Swedish scholar, Pehr Hallsten (1897-1965), in Ballard in 1939 and they became companions, living together from 1940. Tobey was an incessant traveler, visiting Mexico, Europe, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, China and Japan. After converting to the Bahá'í Faith, it became an important part of his life.
Pehr Hallsten (left) with Mark Tobey and Wesley Wehr UW Special Libraries
Mark Tobey and Mark Ritter in front of their home in Basel, March 1975
Whether Tobey's all-over paintings, marked by oriental brushwork and calligraphic strokes, were an influencer on Jackson Pollock's drip paintings has been left unanswered.
Born in Centerville, Wisconsin, Tobey lived in the Seattle, Washington area for most of his life before moving to Basel, Switzerland in the early 1960s with his companion, Pehr Hallsten. Tobey was careful with his money but often casual with his own paintings, knowing he could always paint more of them. When Beyeler, his dealer, arranged for Tobey to live in a XVII century house rent-free in exchange for his paintings, Tobey couldn’t resist such an offer. He lived there with Pehr Hallsten and Mark Ritter (his secretary), leading a quiet life of painting, music, and friends.
Tobey died there in 1976 and is buried at St Alban Church Cemetery.
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