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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Millennium Light

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Millennium Light


Morris Graves

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

When Graves created this work, one of his earliest paintings, he was already deeply politically engaged and farseeing in his world view. He was well versed in Christian scripture and alert to the potency of allegory as a means of addressing the issues of his time. With Adolf Hitler assuming power in Germany and the U.S. in spiraling economic chaos, Graves confronted the dark days of 1933-34 as a prophet of doom. Referencing the biblical Book of Revelation, Graves painted the new dawn, but now eerily
illuminating the blighted land outside the city of God, a place where mad dogs such as this wretched creature reside with the accursed.
Oil on canvas
39 × 40in. (99.1 × 101.6cm)
Gift of the Marshall and Helen Hatch Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum
Provenance: The artist, until December 1934; by gift to his friend, Merita Mills (1912-1969), Beaumont, Texas, 1935-1969; her heirs; [Parke-Bernet, New York, sale 3156, “Modern European and American Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings,” February 11, 1971, as Greyhound in Landscape; withdrawn]; with [Denis Gallion, Ltd., San Francisco], by February-October 1982; sold to Marshall (1918-2008) and Helen (died 1996) Hatch, Seattle, Washington, October 1982; by bequest to Seattle Art Museum, 2008
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Center, Bumberbiennale: Seattle Painting, 1925-1985, Aug. 30 - Sept. 7, 1985. No catalogue.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Birds and Beasts, July 14, 1994 - Apr. 9, 1995.

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, 1998; 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. 10, 14, 17, 27, 67, reproduced p. 13.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Morris Graves and Seattle, Nov. 1, 2001 - Oct. 20, 2002. No catalogue [painting was withdrawn in January for inclusion in Bremen-Tacoma show].

Bremen, Germany, Kunsthalle Bremen, John Cage, Mark Tobey, Morris Graves: Sounds of the Inner Eye, Feb. 10 - Apr. 14, 2002 (Tacoma, Washington, Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art, July 6 - Oct. 6, 2002). Text by Wulf Herrzogenrath and Andreas Kreul, eds. No cat. no., p. 164, reproduced.

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., p. 19, reproduced p. 8 (detail) and p. 20, pl. 9.
Published ReferencesKass, Ray. Morris Graves: Vision of the Inner Eye. Exh. cat. New York: George Braziller, Inc., in association with The Phillips Collection, 1983; p. 23, reproduced fig. 4.

Hackett, Regina. "SAM Exhibit Captures Morris Graves' Many Faces," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 1.

Junker, Patricia. “The Seattle Art Museum and the Northwest School,” in A Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2008;, p. 213, reproduced pl. 175.

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.

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