Published on April 29th, 2015 | by Editorial Staff


“The Still-Life Tradition in the Northwest” on view at the Tacoma Art Museum until June 7, 2015

Morris Graves Self PortraitOur site’s background may not feature a still-life painting, but it does feature the self-portraits of the enigmatic Northwest Mystic artist Morris Graves.

Graves’ work is featured in the Tacoma Art Museum-organized exhibit, “The Still-Life Tradition in the Northwest,” showing now through June 7, 2015.

From the Museum’s website:

“Still-life painting is a time-honored tradition. Works of art depicting an object or group of objects possess a universal appeal that extends across cultures and styles. Though still lifes were originally considered a less important subject for artworks because of their mundane focus, they became a particularly popular form of expression in the 19th and 20th centuries.

A number of these Northwest artists depict common subjects such as flowers, arrangements of fruit and vegetables, and groupings of objects in domestic and studio settings. There are also some unusual choices.

It is possible to trace a shift in the intent of these images across time. Artists working in the early 20th century reference classic
still-life composition: a harmonious group of traditional objects (fruit, vessels, fabrics) lovingly painted. Mid-century artists were influenced by modernist ideas about art. Their works play with space, color, and shape using the objects in a still life as the basis for re-examining artistic traditions. For many of the contemporary artists, symbolism and encoded messages are important components of their images, as the titles of some of the works attest.”

More about Morris Graves from the Tacoma Art Museum:

“Morris Graves (1910–2001) was born in Fox Valley, Oregon; his family moved to Seattle in 1911. As a teenager,  he sailed to Asia which had a major impact on his personal aesthetic.  He spent much of his professional life in Seattle and La Conner, Washington, sharing a studio for awhile with Guy Anderson. His first one-man exhibition was in 1936 at the Seattle Art Museum. .He also worked for the WPA in 1939. In 1942, his paintings were part of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s “Americas 1942″ exhibit, bringing Graves national recognition. In September 1954, Life Magazine did an article on “The Mystic Painters of the Northwest,” featuring Graves, and including Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, and Mark Tobey–the artists who came to be known as the Northwest School. From 1954 through 1964, Graves lived in Ireland and sculpted. In lateryears Graves moved to Loleta, California.”

Visit the Tacoma Art Museum:


Tuesday–Sunday 10 am–5 pm, Thursdays 10am–8 pm (March–June 2015), Free Third Thursday 5–8 pm


1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402




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