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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Fish in the Moonlight

Photo: Elizbeth Mann

Fish in the Moonlight


Mark Tobey

born Centerville, Wisconsin, 1890; died Basel, Switzerland, 1976

In 1934 Tobey embarked on an extended tour of the Far East. In the course of his trip, he wrote poetry and recorded his observations, images which would come to shape his art. He noted particularly qualities of light: the moon over the Indian Ocean, the sun setting over Shanghai. In the splendid isolation of a Japanese monastery he was inspired by the devotions of his hosts to see the wholeness of the cosmos in light embracing all living things:

Japanese vision which takes into account such [small] forms of life-gives them the dignity of a kakemono [a scroll painting]. . . An awareness of the smallest detail of her [nature's] vastness as though the whole were contained therein and that from a leaf, an insect, a universe appeared.

Tempera on paper mounted on paperboard
11 x 15 in. (27.94 x 38.1 cm)
Gift of Captain John Bowen
Photo: Elizbeth Mann
Not currently on view


Published ReferencesBalken, Debra Bricker. Mark Tobey: Threading Light. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with the Addison Gallery of American Art, 2017; p. 74, reproduced p. 75, pl. 30.

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