Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Portrait of Mrs. Edgar Ames

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Portrait of Mrs. Edgar Ames


Mark Tobey

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

Mark Tobey is best known for his abstract, calligraphic-style paintings that entered his work at mid-career, in the 1940s. But his earliest work focused heavily on portraiture in charcoal. The subject of this elegant work in pastel is Mrs. Edgar Ames, one of Tobey’s first Seattle patrons. A supporter of the progressive Cornish School of art, music, dance, and theater, she sponsored Tobey when he came to Seattle to join the faculty in 1922. The design and brilliant color of this portrait perhaps reflect Tobey’s discovery of Japanese prints at this time and his new-found interest in Asian art. The worldly Anne Ames is shown here in Asian dress, standing before a Chinoiserie wall hanging.

Pastel on orange-color pastel paper mounted on woodpulp board, 23 x 17 3/4 in.
23 × 17 3/4 in. (58.4 × 45.1 cm)
Frame: 32 × 28 1/16 × 1 7/16 in. (81.3 × 71.3 × 3.7 cm)
Gift of Mrs. John A. Baillargeon
Provenance: The sitter, Anne Ames (Mrs. Edgar Ames, died 1956),Seattle; by bequest to her daughter Margaret Ames Baillargeon (Mrs. John A. Baillargeon), Seattle; by gift to Seattle Art Museum, March 1967
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryIn chronological order:

Dallas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Mark Tobey Retrospective, Mar. 20-Apr. 21, 1968. Cat. no. 2, reproduced.

Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, Tobey's 80: A Retrospective, Dec. 3, 1970-Jan. 31, 1971. Text by Betty Bowen. Cat. no. 1, n.p., reproduced.

Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, Tobey's Portraits, December 1975. No catalogue.

Ithaca, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, JapanAmerica: Points of Contact, 1876-1970, Aug. 27-Dec. 18, 2016 (Sacramento, Crocker Art Museum, Feb. 12-May 27, 2017). No cat. no., p. 256, reproduced fig. 147.

Published ReferencesIn chronological order:

cf. Thomas, Edward B. Mark Tobey: A Retrospective Exhibition from Northwest Collections. Exh. cat. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1959; n.p., cat. no 4.

"Accessions of American and Canadian Museums, January-March, 1967." Art Quarterly 30, no. 2 (1967): p. 174, reproduced.

Brazier, Dorothy Brrant. "When Art Patrons Were Few and Far Between." Seattle Times, January 24, 1968: p. 19, reproduced.

Geise, Lucretia H., "Mark Tobey's 1939 Murals for the John A. Baillargeons: A Transition." Archives of American Art Journal 23, no. 2 (1983): p. 4.

Winther-Tamaki, Bert. "Mark Tobey, White Writing for a Janus-Faced America." Word and Image 13, no. 1 (January-March 1997): p. {?, reproduced}.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM