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Lot 2: Mark Tobey (1890-1976)
Contemporary Art - Part I
May 8, 1996
New York, NY, USA
Description: DORMITION OF THE VIRGIN signed tempera on board 17 by 13 in. 43.2 by 33 cm. Painted in 1945. Dormition of the Virgin is an eloquent expression of Tobey"s religious convictions. A follower of the Ba"hai faith, Tobey believed in the premise that certain universal truths underlie all religions. The subject of this work is drawn from Eastern Orthodox tradition: the Virgin asleep, envisioning herself bearing the Son of God. As Tobey explained, "For a long time I have been interested in icon painting and Byzantine painting in general. In the Dormition of the Virgin (her deathless sleep) I have used some forms in improvisation similar to musicians using a motif by earlier or contemporary musicians. I had more or less only a feeling of earlier paintings upon and into which I built a modern complex structure"" (Art News, January 1-14, 1946, p. 22). Stylistically, Dormition of the Virgin is related to the Byzantine concept of depicting many scenes, times and incidents simultaneously. Tobey describes the work as follows: "The outline of the floating Virgin in coral color rises above a similar form below which is but a shadowy idea of her earthly existence. The rectangular masses of figures to the left and the right give the idea of a more mundane existence. The multiple space bounded by white lines symbolizes higher states of consciousness. The small draped figure in the upper right is again the Virgin within these dimensions known only to herself"" (Art News, January 1-14, 1946, p. 22). Provenance: Reverend and Mrs. Josiah R. Bartlett (acquired directly from the artist in 1945) Exhibited: New York, Willard Gallery, Mark Tobey, 1945, cat. no. 18 New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Modern Religious Paintings, 1946, illustrated in color on the cover San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Mark Tobey: A Retrospective, 1951 Literature: Art News, January 1-14, 1946, illustrated in color on the cover Kenneth Rexroth, "Mark Tobey of Seattle, Washington,"" Art News 50, May 1951, p. 19, illustrated in color William Seitz, Abstract Expressionist Paintings in America, Cambridge, 1983, cat. no. 258, illustrated in color (upside down) Property from the Collection of Helen W. Benjamin.