Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Mark Tobey/ Jackson Pollock Debate...


In an art publication, I read that Jackson Pollock, the famous abstract expressionist painter known for his "drip style," took great pains to deny that his work was influenced by the work of Mark Tobey. Evidence suggests otherwise. (Unlike Pollock's non-denial of Janet Sobel, who was the subject of this blog in March, 2022, which you can find in the archives.)

Before describing the evidence, let me introduce you to Mark Tobey (1890-1976). Does the name sounds familiar? If so, he was known as one of the  "4 Mystical Painters of the Northwest" and a founder of the Northwest School (of art style).  (The other 3 were: Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson)

As a young man, Tobey had converted to the Ba'hai faith. The study of his faith, as well as his travels through Europe and the Orient, led to his interest in Asian arts. He studied haiku (Japanese essential poetry), Japanese brushwork, and Chinese, Arab and Persian calligraphy. 




He also stayed for awhile in a Zen monastery. In time, all of these experiences would influence his art and not only lead to abstract art work, but also to what Tobey referred to as "white writing." 

  Toby experimented with combining painting and calligraphy for spiritual meaning. He would overlay the painting with white (or another light color) in an interwoven brush stroke style. His method would give rise to what is known as an "an "all-over" painting style.(His "Broadway" painting on left.)


Now, dear reader, back to Pollock... ...evidence shows that Pollock attended every exhibition of Tobey's paintings. Often, Pollock would attend an exhibit and then return to his studio and create a very large all-over canvas mural. Below on the right is a Tobey painting and on the left is a Pollock. What do you think? Do you think Pollock really was influenced by Tobey? 


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