Wednesday, 5 June 2013


“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius
Morris Cole Graves (August 28, 1910 – May 5, 2001) was an American expressionist painter. Along with Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, William Cumming, and Mark Tobey, he founded the Northwest School. Graves was also a mystic. He is perhaps best known for introspective works that present a mystical view of nature. His style was greatly influenced by the three trips he made to East Asia between 1928 and 1930, and, like Mark Tobey, Graves had a deep interest in Asian art and religion, including Buddhism and Zen Daoism.
In 1936 the Seattle Art Museum presented Graves’s first one-man show. About 1937 he turned from oils to tempera or gouache, which he applied to Chinese paper. He then made some of his best-known works, including “Blind Bird” (1940) and “Little Known Bird of the Inner Eye” (1941). He frequently used a calligraphic style in which delicate white lines appear against a dark background. His art received international attention in 1942 when 31 of his works appeared in an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Thereafter Graves’s oil paintings and watercolours were highly sought after by collectors and won numerous prizes, including two at the Art Institute of Chicago, in 1947 and 1948.
A 1947 study Graves made of the Asian art in the Honolulu Academy of Art inspired his series of paintings depicting Chinese bronzes made that same year. In 1954–56 he painted the birds and animals of Ireland. Shortly thereafter Graves left the United States to make his home outside Dublin, to escape, as he explained, “the onrush and outrage of machine noise.” Before he left he painted “Spring with Machine-Age Noises—No. 3” (1957), a visual cacophony that seems to sweep over a stretch of grass.

In 1964 he again relocated, this time to Loleta, California, where he bought 25 acres of redwood forest and created an idyllic environment for himself, complete with a small lake, Zen-inspired buildings, and gardens. Inspired by his surroundings, Graves often depicted flowers in his later work. His later paintings were increasingly abstract, and while they retained their delicacy, the Asian influence was gone. In later years and especially at the end of his notable career, Graves returned to sculpture, originally created forty years earlier, and received critical acclaim for his “Instruments of a New Navigation”, works inspired by NASA and space exploration. Morris Graves died the morning of May 5, 2001 at his home in Loleta, hours after suffering a stroke.
Magpie Tales has selected his 1979 painting, “Waking, Walking, Singing in the Next Dimension” to spark creative writing in her weekly challenge. Here is my contribution:

From Egg to Earth
The egg has just hatched
And the nestling dreams sweetly;
As flower buds unfurl.
The bird sings joyful
Songs, in noon’s white blinding heat,
Hidden in leafy bower.
As golden leaves fall,
The bird eggs on its offspring,
To leave the nest, fly.
Snow falls and covers
The dead bird: A life cycle ends;
Soon, new beginnings.


  1. Beautiful circle of life...and thank you for the background on Graves...

  2. I learned a lot and you depicted the life cycle beautifully

    I am