Mark George Tobey (December 11, 1890 – April 24, 1976) was an American artist. His tightly structured compositions, inspired by Asian calligraphy, resemble abstract expressionism, although the motifs of his compositions are philosophically different from most abstract expressionist artists. His work has been widely recognized throughout the United States and Europe. In 1921, Toby founded an art department at the Cornish School in Seattle, Washington.
Toby started his career at the age of twenty-one in New York, first practiced fashion, then art and his spiritual aspects. In the 1920s, after gaining the Baha’i faith, he began to travel through Europe and the East to study Arabic and Persian writing, and to deepen eastern spirituality (Chinese and Japanese). After World War II, he intensified his teaching and artistic activities at several solo exhibitions, in the US and Europe, until 1960 he settled in Switzerland, but continues to travel and produce works of art that are also exhibited and awarded at the Venice Biennale. He died in 1976 year in Basel.
Toby left a strong mark in the history of “900” for his unique calligraphic images, which are the result of lyrical integration between two figurative cultures, Western and Eastern, beginning from traditional Chinese painting on parchment with European cubism. This form of abstraction stems from the different experiences of the artist who lived between Seattle and New York, traveled extensively between Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kyoto and Europe and turned to the Baha’i faith, the monotheistic religion of Abraham born in Iran in the mid-nineteenth century.
Tobey is most notable for his creation of so-called “white writing” – an overlay of white or light-colored calligraphic symbols on an abstract field which is often itself composed of thousands of small and interwoven brush strokes. This method, in turn, gave rise to the type of “all-over” painting style made most famous by Jackson Pollock, another American painter to whom Tobey is often compared. Tobey’s work is also defined as creating a vibratory space with the multiple degrees of mobility obtained by the Brownian movement of a light brush on a bottom with the dense tonalities.