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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Moor Swan

Photo: Eduardo Calderon

Moor Swan


Morris Graves

born Fox Valley, Oregon, 1910; died Loleta, California, 2001

Seeing divine creations and seeing degeneracy . . . seem sufficient reasons to use painting as my voice.

Morris Graves, 1937

The moor swan is often seen as one of nature’s dark anomalies. It is mysteriously different from its beautiful white counterpart, its blackness equated with evil and the bird associated with death. Yet a black swan is a divine creation, nonetheless, even if it does not appear to conform to what we believe to be the laws of nature. That a young Graves should take it as the subject of one of his first paintings suggests how deeply he had contemplated the bird, perhaps identifying himself with its outcast status.

Oil on canvas
36 x 34 3/4 in. (91.4 x 88.3 cm)
Gift of West Seattle Art Club, Katherine B. Baker Memorial Purchase Prize, 19th Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, Seattle Art Museum, 1933
Provenance: The artist; purchased by Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 1933
Photo: Eduardo Calderon
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Nineteenth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, Oct. 5 - Nov. 6, 1933. Cat. no. 9 [awarded West Seattle Art Club, Katherine B. Baker Memorial Purchase Prize - $100].

Boise, Idaho, Boise Art Association, Northwest Artists, Nov. 1941. No catalogue.

Chicago, Illinois, The Arts Club of Chicago, Morris Graves, Jan. 6 - 27, 1943 (Minneapolis, Minnesote, University of Minnesota, University Gallery, Feb. 2 - 28, 1943). Cat. no. 36.

San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Morris Graves Retrospective Exhibition, May 21 - June 29, 1948 (Santa Barbara, California, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, July 4 - 31, 1948; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Aug. 7 - Sept. 6, 1948). No cat. no., p. 7.

Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts, Northwest Artists, 1950 (East Lansing, Michigan State University, 1950; Albion, Michigan, Albion College, 1950; Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Cranbrook Academy of Art, 1951; Grand Rapids, Michigan, Grand Rapids Art Gallery, 1951; Saginaw, Michigan, Saginaw Art Museum, 1951; Flint, Michigan, Flint Institute of Arts, 1951; Ann Arbor, Michigan, University of Michigan Museum of Art, 1951). {No catalogue.}

New York, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Morris Graves Retrospective Exhibition, organized by the Art Galleries of the University of California, Los Angeles, Feb. 28 - Apr. 8, 1956 (Washington, D.C., The Phillips Gallery, Apr.15 - May 7, 1956; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, May 19 - June 30, 1956; Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center, July 21 - Aug. 26, 1956; San Francisco, California, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum (no dates given); Los Angeles, California, Art Galleries of the University of California, Los Angeles, Nov. 5 - Dec. 2, 1956; La Jolla, California, Art Center, Dec. 10, 1956 - Jan. 15, 1957; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Feb. 7 - Mar. 10, 1957). Text by John I.H. Baur, Duncan Phillips, and Frederick S. Wight. Cat. no. 1, reproduced.

Tokyo, Japan, The Bridgestone Gallery, [Morris Graves] Retrospective Exhibition, June 4 - July 8, 1957. {No catalogue.}

Naples, Italy, Palazzo Reale, Twenty Five Years of American Painting, 1933-1958 [United States Information Agency Exhibition, organized by the City Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri], Oct. 30 - Nov. 29, 1959 (Florence, Italy, Palazzo Strozzi, Dec. 12, 1959 - Jan. 10, 1960; Rome, Italy, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Jan. 23, 1960 - Feb. 21, 1960; Milan, Italy, Museo della Permanente, Mar.1-22, 1960; Berlin, Germany, Amerika Haus, Apr. 10 - May 16, 1960; Darmstadt, West Germany, Hessisches Landesmuseum, June 2 - 26, 1960; Gothenburg, Sweden, Gothenburg Art Museum, July 15 - Aug. 7, 1960; York, England, City Art Gallery, Aug. 15 - Sept. 20, 1960. {No cat. no., p. 18.}

Seattle, Washington, Seattle World’s Fair, Playhouse Lobby, 1962.

Balboa, California, The Pavilion Gallery, organized by The Fine Arts Patrons of Newport Harbor and The Newport Harbor Service League, Morris Graves: Retrospective, Mar. 1 - 31, 1963. Text by Frederick S. Wight. Cat. no. 2, reproduced. [Text adapted from Morris Graves by Frederick S. Wight, et al., published by the University of California Press in book form, and as catalogue for exhibition organized by the Art Galleries of the University of California, Los Angeles, 1956].

Tucson, Arizona, University of Arizona Art Gallery, The Bird in Art, Nov. 7, 1964 - Jan. 3, 1965. Cat. no. 103, reproduced p. 19.

Eugene, Oregon, University of Oregon Museum of Art, Morris Graves: A Retrospective, Feb. 8 - Mar. 13, 1966. Cat. no. 1, reproduced.

Renton, Washington, Renton Creative Arts Festival, Inaugural Exhibition, 1967. No catalogue.

Tyler, Texas, Tyler Museum of Art, American Painting, 1900-Present: Inaugural Exhibition of the Tyler Museum of Art, Mar. 21 - Apr. 28,1971. No cat. no.

Omaha, Nebraska, Joslyn Art Museum, The Thirties Decade: American Artists and Their European Contemporaries, Oct. 10 - Nov. 28, 1971. Cat. no. 74, not reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum Pavilion, Northwest Traditions, June 29 - Dec.10, 1978. No cat. no., reproduced p. 4.

Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Morris Graves: Vision of the Inner Eye, Apr. 9 - May 29, 1983 (Greenville, South Carolina, Greenville County Museum of Art, July 1 - Aug. 28, 1983; New York, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Sept. 15 - Nov. 27, 1983; Oakland, California, The Oakland Museum, Jan. 18 - Mar. 25, 1984; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Apr. 19 - July 8, 1984; San Diego, California, San Diego Museum of Art, July 24 - Sept. 4, 1984). Text by Ray Kass and Theodore Wolff. Cat. no. 2, reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Club, Apr. 3- June 3, 1985. No catalogue.

La Conner, Washington, Museum of Northwest Art, Morris Graves: The Early Works, June 25 - Sept. 30, 1998 (Stamford, Connecticut, Whitney Museum of American Art, Mar. 12 - June 3; Greenville, South Carolina, Greenville County Museum of Art, Mar. 17 - May 16, 1999; Beaumont, Texas, Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Sept. 9 - Nov. 30, 1999). Text by Theodore F. Wolff. No cat. no., pp. 14-15, reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Morris Graves and Seattle, Nov. 1, 2001 - Oct. 20, 2002. No catalogue.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: the Mythic and the Mystical, June 19 - Sept. 7, 2014. Text by Patricia Junker. No cat. no. reproduced pl. 29.
Published ReferencesCallahan, Kenneth. “The Art Situation: Nineteenth Annual Opens,” The Town Crier (October 7, 1933): p. 9.

Boren, Virginia. “At the Preview of the 19th Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” Seattle Times, October 5, 1933: p. 14.

[Callahan, Kenneth]. “The Art Museum,” Seattle Times, October 8, 1933: p. 11.
“The First Prize Oil at the Northwest Artists’ Exhibition and the Artist; Morris Graves,” Seattle Times, October 15, 1933: p. 47, reproduced.

Fuller, Richard. “Report of the President and Director,” Annual Report of the Seattle Art Museum, 1933 (1934): p. 10.

“Young Seattle Artist’s Work Highly Praised,” Seattle Times, May 20, 1934: p. 37.

Some Work of the Group of Twelve (Seattle: Dogwood Press, 1937), n.p., reproduced.

[Boren, Virginia]. “Walk a Little Faster,” Seattle Times, March 7, 1937: p. 43.

Poland, Reginald Harkness. “Some Far Western Artists worth Knowing Better,” Parnassus 9, no. 4 (April 1937): pp. 9-10, reproduced p. 9.

Callahan, Kenneth. “Art Museum,” Seattle Times, January 24, 1943: p. 21.

Callahan, Margaret Bundy. “Mark Tobey, Breaker of Art Traditions,” Seattle Times, March 17, 1946: p. 51.

Phillips, Duncan. “Morris Graves,” Magazine of Art 40, no. 8 (December 1947): p. 306.

Callahan, Margaret. “Noted Seattle Artist Collects Junk; Names All His Pets Edith,” Seattle Times, October 31, 1948: p. 5, reproduced.

Callahan, Kenneth. “Museum Show is Survey of N.W. Painting,” Seattle Times, April 27, 1958: p. 47.

Phillips, Margery E. “Painting Adds Distinction to Home Décor,” Seattle Times, November 2, 1958: p. 78.

“New Work from Northwest Artists,” Washington Education (November 1958): p. ?

Almquist, June Anderson. “Women News: Society, Clubs, Foods, Fashions,” Seattle Times, April 7, 1960: p. 68.

Voorhess, John. “Tobey—and Friends—at Art Museum Pavilion,” Seattle Times, August 8, 1971: p. 31.

“Morris Graves to Receive Award Sunday,” Seattle Times, January 25, 1974: p. 49.
“’Spring’ At Museum,” Seattle Times, February 17, 1974: p. 70.

Plagens, Peter. Sunshine Muse: Art on the West Coast, 1945-1970 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), reproduced p. 51, fig. 29.

Tarzan, Delores. “Graves Great at Foster-White,” Seattle Times, January 17, 1975: p. 52.

Tarzan, Delores, “’Northwest Traditions’ Lively,” Seattle Times, July 9, 1978: p. L1.

Tarzan Delores. “Art Museum Born of One Family’s Resolve: SAM’s Mid-Life Crisis,” Seattle Times, April 20, 1981: p. 24.

Cumming, William. Sketchbook: A Memoir of the 1930s and the Northwest School (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1984), p. 18.

Tarzan Delores. “Morris Graves: Popular Northwest Artist’s Work Comes Home to Roost Awhile,” Seattle Times, April 18, 1984: p. F-1.

Kingsbury, Martha. “[Review]: Sketchbook: A Memoir of the 1930s and the Northwest School. By William Cumming. . . ,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 76, no. 3 (July 1985): p. 115.

Kofoed, Kristian. “Graven Images: A Rare Exhibit of Morris Graves Paintings Stops in La Conner,” Seattle Weekly, September 19, 1998: {p. ?}

Farr, Sheila. “Morris Graves Dies; Artist and Native of NW,” Seattle Times, May 6, 2001: pp. B1-2, reproduced p. B2.

Hackett, Regina. “Morris Graves was the Antic Genius of Northwest Art,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 8, 2001: pp. E1,3.

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