Morris Graves was born in Fox Valley, Oregon in 1910. The self-taught artist was a sickly child with an adventurous spirit. Graves traveled through the East and received a Guggenheim Fellowship for study in Japan, as well as the Windor Award for study in Europe. Although raised Protestant, he developed an interest in Zen Buddhist philosophy as an adult.
Graves, considered part of the Northwest Masters, shared a studio with fellow artist Guy Anderson, and began a close friendship with Mark Tobey in the late 1930’s. Graves, Tobey, Anderson, and Kenneth Callahan were known as “Northwest Mystics” because of their philosophies that combined Eastern religious beliefs and an appreciation for the natural world and the individual’s place in it.
Vessels, trees, flowers, and birds were common subjects for Graves and served as symbols as containers for the soul. He believed that all significant images in a religious context emerge from a vision from the “inner eye.” This state of consciousness occurs by way of meditative painting through which the artist arrives at an authentic vision.
“During a century of accelerated change, intensified materialism, and rampant nihilism, this artist charted a course of divine exploration, seeking to integrate the outer, human conflicts with intuitions or spiritual wholeness and inner peace.” – Alice Bingham and Penelope Schmidt
Graves’ work has been exhibited in Canada, Japan, Norway, Russia, as well as the Seattle Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. His paintings are included locally in the collections of the Boeing Company, Seafirst Corporate Art Collection, Safeco Insurance Company, and the Tacoma Art Museum.
Morris Graves passed away in May of 2001 at the age of 90.