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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Black Buddha Mandala

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Black Buddha Mandala


Morris Graves

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

At a time when Graves was deep into the study of Hindu philosophy, the Black Buddha Mandala appeared to him in a dream. He recorded that he saw two concentric circles of light against a sepia-dappled, slate-like ground. Within this luminous mandala appeared four smaller circles, one after another, which contained different stages of a plant bud as it progressed toward flowering. Finally a voice addressed itself to Graves with the words, “You see the eternal laws are working.” Then another mandala appeared at the center, and it contained the image of a seated black Buddha.

Graves recorded the vision in his painting, but afterward considered the image of the Buddha too personal to display, so he covered it with a circle of rice paper.

Tempera wih collage on paper mounted on canvas
27 3/8 × 26 3/4 in. (69.5 × 67.9 cm)
Frame: 34 1/8 × 33 1/4 × 2 in. (86.7 × 84.5 × 5.1 cm)
Gift of the Marshall and Helen Hatch Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryOsaka, Japan, National Museum of Art, Pacific Northwest Artists and Japan, Oct. 2 - Nov. 11, 1982.

Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Morris Graves: Vision of the Inner Eye, Apr. 9 - Aug. 23, 1983.

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

New York, New York, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Morris Graves: Symbols & Reality, Nov. 13, 2003 - Jan. 3, 2004.

Published ReferencesSivanesan, Haema. In the Present Moment: Buddhim, Contemporary Art, and Social Practice. Exh. Cat. Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 2022; p. 101, reproduced fig. 77 [not in exhibition].

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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