Details
Mark Tobey (1890-1976)
New Crescent
signed and dated 'Tobey 53' (lower left)
tempera on paper laid on board
23 ¾ x 18in. (60.4 x 45.7cm.)
Executed in 1953
Provenance
Willard Gallery, New York.
Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Dahl, Carmel (acquired in 1953).
M. Knoedler & Co, Inc., New York.
Private Collection, New York.
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 3 November 1994, lot 199.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
A. L. Dahl, Mark Tobey. Art and Belief, Oxford 1984, no. 5 (illustrated in colour, p. 14).
D. Zbitowkski, Geheimnisvolle Zeichen Fremd Schriften in der Malerei des 20. Jahrhunderts, Göttingen 1996, no. 88 (illustrated).
Exhibited
San José, State College, Mark Tobey, 1958.
San Francisco, Frederic Hobbs Fine Art Gallery, Masterworks by Mark Tobey. 16 Masterpieces on loan from the Arthur and Joyce Dahl Collection, 1960.
Stanford, Stanford University Art Gallery, Mark Tobey, 1967-1968, no. 10 (illustrated, p. 30). This exhibition later travelled to Lincoln, University of Nebraska Art Galleries; Chicago, Roosevelt University and Santa Barbara, The Art Gallery, University of California.
Dallas, Museum of Fine Arts, Mark Tobey Retrospective, 1968, no. 59.
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Mark Tobey, 1976, no. 20 (illustrated in colour).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Mark Tobey, 1997-1998 (illustrated in colour, p. 233).
Ravenna, Museo d'Arte della citta, L'artista viaggiatore da Gauguin a Klee, da Matisse a Ontani, 2009 (illustrated in colour, p. 164).

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Alexandra Werner
Alexandra Werner

Lot Essay

‘[Tobey] is valued because of his spirituality, his timelessness, his energy and vitality, his intimacy, profundity, and sincerity. No one has a more vibrant line, more singing color, more sophisticated control of the spatial complexities of abstract form. He has [woven]... his own fabric to give form to his own vision. He has built his own world and, in the process, has helped illuminate ours’
–M. C. Rueppel

A loose skein of yellow threaded through a dense complex of exuberant white on a fathomless black background, New Crescent is an excellent example of Mark Tobey’s mature style. Developed after his 1934 visit to Asia, where he studied the traditions of Zen painting and calligraphy, this work represents the apotheosis of Tobey’s signature ‘white-writing’ paintings. As a proponent of the universalist Bahi’a religion, which professes unity and balance as its essential tenets, Tobey used his art to meditate on the transitory, and on ideas of the spiritual versus the material. In New Crescent, Tobey adapts the individual techniques of Eastern art and the thematic elements of his universalist faith to portray and deal with aspects of modern, Western urban life. Using calligraphic lines and ideograms to convey the rhythms of the city, Tobey activates the picture surface with dynamic power. The result is an inner tension of such strength and vitality that the entire painting appears to vibrate.
Comparisons with the works of Jackson Pollock are inevitable. Both artists were influenced by the European Surrealists who immigrated to New York in the 1940s, and Tobey certainly knew of Pollock‘s work when his own mature style was developing. Yet Tobey’s paintings stand in splendid isoaltion, differing from Pollock’s work in both their means of creation and ultimate intention. Meditative, intimate, balanced and precise, New Crescent’s introspective rhythm draws the viewer into its complex and infinate atmosphere in an effortlessly unique way.

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