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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Bird with Seeds (Possessions)

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Bird with Seeds (Possessions)


Morris Graves

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

Graves once identified this bird painting as a symbolic portrayal of himself, guarding his seeds, his own few possessions, in a world gone mad. The bird’s position on the large page was intended to heighten the feeling of emptiness while its body language, Graves said, would convey his urgency to protect what little of value remains. As Graves explained it, the bird has turned its back on a threat, its tightly compressed wings serving as its armor.

Ink and opaque watercolor on laid paper
Sheet: 29 3/8 x 26 13/16 in.; mount: 32 3/4 x 30 1/8 in.
Gift of the Marshall and Helen Hatch Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum
Provenance: The artist, to [Willard Gallery] New York, before January 11, 1944; sold to Mr. and Mrs. Nixon Griffiths, New York, by January 11, 1944-before September 1975; Daniel S. and Danna Dunning, New York, by September 1975-after September 1984; Marshall (1918-2008) and Helen (died 1996) Hatch, Seattle, Washington, after September 1984; by bequest to Seattle Art Museum, 2008; with Hatch estate, 2008-2012
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryIn chronological order:

New York, Willard Gallery, Morris Graves; Exhibition of Recent Work, Jan. 11-Feb. 5, 1944. Text by Duncan Phillips. Cat. no. 2 [as Bird with Seeds (Possessions); not for sale].

Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Fifty-ninth Annual American Exhibition, Water colors and Drawings, Nov. 4, 1948-Jan. 2, 1949. Cat. no. 115 [Bird with Seeds—Possessions; Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Nixon Griffiths, New York].

Eugene, Oregon, University of Oregon Museum of Art, Drawings of Morris Graves (organized by the American Federation of Arts), Sept. 21-Nov. 2, 1975 (Tacoma, Washington, Tacoma Art Museum, Nov. 17, 1975-Jan. 4, 1976; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Jan. 25-Mar. 7, 1976; San Antonio, Texas, Marian Koogler McNay Art Institute, Mar. 28-May 9, 1976; East Hampton, New York, Woodhouse Gallery, Guild Hall, June 12-July 4, 1976; Charleston, West Virginia, The Charleston At Gallery of Sunrise, Aug. 1-Sept. 12, 1976). Cat. no. 13 [As Bird Guarding Possessions; let by Ms. Danna R. Dunning, New York].

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, Whitney Museum of American Art, Sept.15-Nov. 27, 1983; Oakland, California, The Oakland Museum, Jan. 18-Mar. 25, 1984; Seattle, 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. Catalogue no. 46 [Bird with Seeds (Possessions); collection of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel S. Dunning].

Seattle, 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. 40, p. 78.

Published ReferencesIn chronological order:

Willard, Marian. "7 Years Old: The Willard Gallery," Direction (Feb./Mar. 1944), in Willard Gallery Papers, Archives of American Art, Morris Graves Scrapbook, microfilm reel NWI-1, reproduced [as Seeds (Possessions)].

Rubin, Ida. E., ed., with John Cage and Morris Graves. The Drawing of Morris Graves. Exh. cat. Boston: New York Graphic Society, in association with The Drawing Society, New York, 1974; pp. 60-61, reproduced [as Bird with Possessions; collection of Danna R. Dunning, New York].

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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