Northwest Modernists Their Lives & Times

Brilliantly inventive and profoundly affected by the world around them, the artists of the Northwest school created art that cannot be separated from the history that surrounded it.

Use this interactive timeline to learn more about the Northwest Modernist artists' lives, careers, and the global events that helped shape their generations.;xNLx;;xNLx;Instructions;xNLx;;xNLx;1. Firmly touch the timeline ruler at the bottom of the screen to navigate to the year you would like to explore.;xNLx;;xNLx;2. To learn more about a particular event, firmly touch that event panel to enlarge it.;xNLx;;xNLx;Note: Artists' life events are contained in purple panels. Global events are contained in green panels.;xNLx;;xNLx;3. A lightbox will appear that contains more information about that event.;xNLx;;xNLx;Note: If there is a photo in the event lightbox, you can zoom in on it by rolling over the image, then pressing on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right hand corner of the image. To close an event lightbox and go back to the timeline, press on the “X” in the upper right hand corner of the lightbox.;xNLx;

1922-01-01 00:00:00

Mark Tobey Moves to Seattle

Mark Tobey is persuaded by a friend, Seattle native George Brown, to leave New York City. Nellie Cornish, founder of Seattle's Cornish School, a progressive school for the arts, takes Tobey under her wing and hires him to teach art.

1923-06-01 00:00:00

Mark Tobey and Teng Baiye Become Friends

Mark Tobey befriends Teng Baiye, a Chinese art student enrolled at the University of Washington. Teng introduces Tobey to the study of calligraphy and instructs him in Asian aesthetics. Tobey becomes a serious student of Asian arts and philosophy and draws from these sensibilities throughout his career.

1923-07-02 00:00:00

Richard E. Fuller Moves to Seattle

Richard E. Fuller moves to Seattle with his parents. His father is a well-known surgeon, and Richard studies geology at the University of Washington, earning a doctorate in 1930.

1923-09-01 00:00:00

7.9-magnitude Earthquake Hits Tokyo

The Great Kantō earthquake destroys a third of Tokyo; it is the strongest earthquake ever recorded up to that time.

1925-05-01 00:00:00

Mark Tobey's Artistic Experimentation

Tobey begins to experiment with spatial planes in his drawings. He recalls: "One night, I was in my studio drawing my own portrait. On the ceiling, a light. All of a sudden I thought: Suppose I were a fly. In this closed space I projected the path taken by the fly: No more frame, no more Renaissance."

1925-06-01 00:00:00

Mark Tobey Begins World Travels

Mark Tobey sets off on the first of his journeys to other parts of the world. When he returns to Seattle in 1927, as he would time and again after his travels abroad, he teaches and makes art.

1927-05-20 00:00:00

Charles Lindbergh's Flight Across the Atlantic

The 25 year-old U.S. Air Mail pilot flies from Long Island, New York, to Paris, France, in The Spirit of Saint Louis. He earns the nickname “Lucky Lindy” for his feat.

1929-05-01 00:00:00

Mark Tobey Begins Receiving Critical Recognition

Tobey's solo exhibition, at Romany Marie's Café and Gallery in New York in 1929, spurs his career. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., soon to become director of the newly founded Museum of Modern Art [MOMA], sees the show and chooses several Tobey works to include in one of the first MOMA exhibitions, “Painting and Sculpture by Living Americans,” in 1930.

1929-05-01 00:00:00

Richard Fuller Becomes a Seattle Arts Leader

Richard Fuller is elected to the first vice-presidency of the Art Institute of Seattle, previously the Seattle Fine Arts Society. He will soon become president of the Art Institute, and make plans to build a new Seattle Art Museum.

1930-05-01 00:00:00

Morris Graves Travels to Asia

Frustrated and bored with high school, Morris Graves drops out and decides to see the world as a steamship hand on the American Mail and Dollar Steamship Lines out of Seattle. Graves travels to Asian ports of call and begins his lifelong study of Asian art, history, and philosophy.

1931-08-01 00:00:00

Mark Tobey Sojourns in England

Mark Tobey leaves Seattle to teach art at the Dartington Hall School, in Devon, England. Dartington Hall, founded in 1926 by Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, is a progressive experimental school, and quickly becomes a magnet for artists, writers and musicians from around the world. Tobey will teach at Dartington Hall through 1938.

1931-09-01 00:00:00

Morris Graves Travels to Texas

After arriving back in the U.S. from his Asian travels, Graves continues his journeys, now through the western states. He ends up in Beaumont, Texas, where his aunt persuades him to finish high school. After graduating in 1932 and spending the summer in New Orleans working on an art commission, Graves comes back to Seattle, feeling that becoming a professional artist is within his grasp.

1931-09-18 00:00:00

Japan Invades Manchuria

A plot by rogue Japanese military personnel to blow up a section of railway near Mukden, China leads to the Japanese military invasion and occupation of Manchuria. By March 1933, after international isolation, Japan withdraws from the League of Nations.

1932-01-28 00:00:00

Morris Graves Responds to Japan Invasion of Shanghai

Morris Graves broods on war as the armies of Japan invade Shanghai, China. He writes to his mother, "My nerves are snapping at full length." His anti-war emotions will become stronger with the advent of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and events in the late 1930s leading up to world war.

1933-06-15 00:00:00

Seattle Art Museum Opens

The Seattle Art Museum opens its doors in Seattle's Volunteer Park. The elegant Art Deco-style building is designed by Seattle architect Carl Gould. Funding has come from the personal fortunes of Dr. Richard E. Fuller, founding director, and his mother, Margaret MacTavish Fuller.

1933-06-22 00:00:00

Kenneth Callahan Joins Museum Staff

Dr. Fuller makes the Seattle Art Museum a gathering place for artists. He hires Kenneth Callahan as his assistant director and allows him to set up a painting studio in the lower level of the museum. Callahan remains in his position, as right-hand man to Richard Fuller, for almost 20 years.

1933-10-05 00:00:00

Morris Graves Receives Museum Recognition

Morris Graves' painting "Moor Swan," selected for the Nineteenth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, is awarded the West Seattle Art Club's, Katherine B. Baker Memorial Purchase Prize which is given to an emerging artist. The painting enters the Seattle Art Museum collection.

1934-06-15 00:00:00

Mark Tobey Travels to Asia

Mark Tobey takes a pivotal trip to Japan, Hong Kong, and China with friend and fellow artist from Dartington Hall, ceramist Bernard Leach. Tobey meets up with Teng Baiye, now living in Shanghai, China. The two resume their friendship and their practice of calligraphy together. Tobey returns to Dartington Hall seized with what he calls a “writing impulse.”

1935-10-02 00:00:00

Guy Anderson Receives Museum Recognition

When Guy Anderson's "Still Life" is awarded the museum's Katherine B. Baker Memorial Purchase Prize at the Seattle Art Museum's Twenty-first Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists and enters the museum’s permanent collection, director Richard Fuller follows up with a letter notifying Anderson that if he has a sufficient number of paintings available, the museum would be "very glad" to give him a one-man show. That solo exhibition comes to fruition the following year.

1936-01-01 00:00:00

Mark Tobey's Groundbreaking Work: The Invention of "White Writing"

In the quiet of the English countryside, Mark Tobey paints his groundbreaking white line-style painting, "Broadway," a sparkling image evoking the energy of New York at night. In a letter to his Seattle friends, Kenneth and Margaret Callahan, Tobey explains the result as "a feeling of Hell under a lacy design–delicate as a Watteau in spirit but madness."

1936-11-01 06:49:24

Willard Gallery Opens in New York

Marian Willard opens her New York gallery in the midst of the Great Depression. Originally called East River Gallery, it grows from a small art rental business into a respected place for showing unconventional contemporary American art. She is dedicated to helping people see their common humanity through art.

1936-12-11 00:00:00

England's King Abdicates

England's King Edward VIII abdicates the throne after reigning for less than a year. He assumes the title Duke of Windsor and marries American-born divorcee Wallace Simpson. He is succeeded by his younger brother, Albert, who becomes George VI.

1936-12-31 00:00:00

Callahan Home is Gathering Place for Artists

Throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s, the Seattle home of Kenneth and Margaret Callahan is a place where the band of Northwest artists and seekers take refuge, share a meal and discuss art, philosophy, politics and war. Margaret Callahan plays a central role as intellectual and confidante to all.

1938-09-15 00:00:00

The Federal Art Project Provides Jobs

The Federal Art Project [FAP] Seattle unit opens under the direction of Robert Bruce Inverarity. Morris Graves and Mark Tobey find employment there. The FAP is a Works Progress Administration [WPA] program that provides much needed employment and income for artists across the country. Guy Anderson teaches at the FAP Art Center in Spokane, Washington. James Washington, Jr., teaches under the FAP in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

1939-01-02 00:00:00

Mark Tobey Returns to Seattle from England

With war looming in Europe and Great Britain, Tobey leaves Dartington Hall in 1938 and returns to Seattle in January 1939. He readily joins the artists in discussions at the Callahans' home. Tobey immediately takes on a teacher role, and the younger painters pay deference to him.

1939-04-30 20:46:22

New York World's Fair Opens

The 1939 New York World’s Fair opens with the theme, “Dawn of a New Day.” It is the first fair to place an emphasis on the future. Over 44 million people attended the fair and most countries around the world participate in its exhibitions.

1939-09-01 22:58:09

War Erupts

Adolph Hitler's German army invades Poland and the Free City of Danzig, which sparks the beginning of the war in Europe. By the end of 1940, Germany will invade the remainder of Czechoslovakia and take over France, and the Battle of Britain will be waged in the air over England.

1939-09-01 22:58:09

Atomic Bomb Development Foretold

Albert Einstein writes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the feasibility of "extremely powerful bombs of a new type." Later he will refer to this letter about an atomic bomb as the greatest mistake of his life.

1940-09-15 22:58:09

Northwest Artists Discuss the War

Discussion of events in Europe among the Northwest artists is passionate and frequent. Their disagreements regarding communism, socialism, and spirituality are ultimately supplanted by their mutual consideration of the role art plays in conveying shared values. When he reflects back on the war years, Kenneth Callahan cites the rise of fascism in Europe as a galvanizing reason for the group of Northwest artists to begin to question Western ideals.

1940-10-15 00:00:00

Morris Graves Builds a Home at The Rock

Graves salvages old lumber from abandoned homes and farms on his property on Fidalgo Island near Seattle. He builds a one-room cabin on a stone promontory and calls his homestead “The Rock.”

1941-09-08 22:58:09

Boeing Manufactures for War

The first Boeing B-17s fly into combat, when the British Royal Air Force takes delivery of the planes for high-altitude missions.

1941-12-07 22:58:09

America Enters the War

The Imperial Japanese Navy attacks the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Six ships are destroyed and 188 aircraft lie in ruins. The attack results in the death of 2,401 Americans and over 1000 wounded.

1942-01-04 06:49:24

Morris Graves Has a Breakout Year

Dorothy Miller, a curator of paintings at New York’s Museum of Modern Art [MOMA], views Graves’ work in Seattle, and she chooses a large group to be shown in an exhibition, "Americans, 1942; 18 Artists from 9 States."

1942-02-01 06:49:24

The Seattle Art Museum During Wartime

Dr. Richard Fuller does not view wartime restrictions as a time to decrease the Seattle Art Museum’s community activities or exhibitions. Many art programs are held at nearby Fort Lewis and in servicemen's clubs. Exhibitions dedicated to the war effort are mounted at the Volunteer Park museum: "China at Peace and War," 1943; "Boeing Aircraft Design for Production," 1943; and an exhibition of Army Medical Corps paintings, 1945.

1942-02-19 22:58:09

The Internment of Japanese Americans Begins

Executive Order 9066 is signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, beginning the forced removal and incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans and the seizure of their property.

1942-04-01 00:32:56

Northwest Artists and the Draft

Mark Tobey is ineligible for the draft, due to his age. Kenneth Callahan receives a deferment, while Morris Graves and Guy Anderson register for Conscientious Objector [CO] status.

1942-04-21 22:58:09

Japanese Americans Evacuate Seattle

More than 12,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry living in the Seattle area are evacuated and held in inland relocation centers during the war.

1942-05-03 22:58:09

Dr. Fuller Assists Artists Throughout the War

Dr. Fuller looks for ways to provide extra income for many Seattle artists. He employs Morris Graves and Guy Anderson periodically for unpacking and installing exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum. He gives Mark Tobey a stipend and lets him use the museum's workroom to frame and pack paintings.

1942-05-14 22:58:09

Seattle is a Busy Wartime City

Mark Tobey is enthralled with the quickened pace war has brought to Seattle life. "The human interaction and creative energy is a powerful representation of industry in the service of madness," he recalls. He continues to develop his white writing style in both figurative and abstract forms. He incorporates the activity of wartime Seattle into his art.

1943-11-23 08:01:00

Leo Kenney and James Washington Exhibit Together

Leo Kenney, together with James W. Washington, Jr., have their first exhibition at the highly regarded art gallery in Seattle’s Frederick and Nelson department store. Attracting the attention of Richard Fuller, director of the Seattle Art Museum, Kenney has his first painting purchased for the museum in 1945 when is just 20 years old.

1944-04-09 06:49:24

Mark Tobey at the Willard Gallery

Mark Tobey has his first show at the Willard Gallery in New York, at the encouragement of his close Seattle friend, Elizabeth Bayley Willis. Willis shapes the character of the exhibition by focusing exclusively on Tobey’s new “white writing” paintings. She even coins the term, which will soon be associated with Tobey’s original contribution to art making.

1944-05-14 06:49:24

Nazi Atrocities Discovered

Soviet armies advance across Eastern Europe in offenses against the German army. The Soviets are the first to discover a major Nazi concentration camp, Majdanek, near Lublin, Poland.

1944-06-06 06:49:24

The Allied Forces Land at Normandy, France

D-Day: Allied Forces in Operation Neptune land in France at five separate beach locations and begin their offense across Europe.

1944-11-05 06:49:24

Mark Tobey Shows with New York Artists

Mark Tobey's star continues to rise as his work is shown alongside that of Jackson Pollock in two New York gallery exhibitions: "40 American Moderns" at Howard Putzel's 67 Gallery and "Abstract and Surrealist Art in America" at Mortimer Brandt Gallery.

1944-11-25 06:49:24

Morris Graves Despondent About the War

Morris Graves continues his despondency about the war and paints a series of deeply affecting laments on the death of all reason. He remarks to his friend Elizabeth Bayley Willis on his large painting, "Winter's Leaves of the Winter of 1944:" "I thought I would send it as a message to Winston Churchill."

1944-11-26 06:49:24

Mark Tobey's Message to the World

During the Allied march across Europe, while the horrors of the Nazis' treatment toward Jewish people is being discovered, Mark Tobey paints, "Bars and Flails." He tells his friend Elizabeth Bayley Willis: "This work refers to the horror and entanglements of humans in Nazi concentration camps, or of barbed wire on the battleground." White writing is not just a technique; it is Tobey's message to the world.

1945-05-08 06:49:24

Victory in Europe

Germany surrenders and Victory in Europe Day, or VE-Day, is celebrated across Europe and Britain. The war in Europe comes to an end.

1945-08-06 02:26:57

Atomic Bomb Dropped on Japan

The U.S. conducts the only two atomic bombings during any war. The bombs are dropped on Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing an estimated 150,000 to 246,000. The bombings bring an end to the war in the Pacific.

1945-08-09 02:26:57

Washington State's Contribution to the War

Washington State's contributions to the war effort include 15 shipyards building warships; Boeing manufacturing thousands of B-17 and B-29 bombers; Pacific Car and Foundry producing hundreds of Sherman tanks; and the Hanford nuclear plant purifying the plutonium for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.

1945-09-01 02:26:57

Morris Graves Applies for a Guggenheim Fellowship

Morris Graves applies for and receives a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to travel to Japan. He is motivated, as he tells his mother in a poignant letter, by his concern for the people of Hiroshima and his desire to bring Japan and America together. His fellowship travel is curtailed ultimately by restrictions on entering Japan, so Graves gets only as far as Hawaii, where he studies the collections of the Academy of Art in Honolulu.

Northwest Modernists Their Lives & Times

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