Morris Graves

Morris Graves


Nationality: American

Birth Place: Fox (Grant county, Oregon, United States)

Morris Graves (1910 – 2001) was an early Modernist American painter from the Pacific Northwest whose work explores the metaphysical nature of reality and spiritual consciousness. Important during his lifetime, he is currently being widely reconsidered. At time of printing, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) is exhibiting a show on the artists work, “Morris Graves: The Nature of Things.” Tied most closely to the fellow Seattle painter Mark Tobey, both artists held similar philosophical beliefs and preferred to work primarily with ink, watercolor or tempera on paper, rather than canvas. A 1953 article in Life magazine cemented Grave’s reputation as a major figure of the newly influential ‘Northwest School’ of artists. As a Seattle teenager, with his parents blessing, Graves dropped out of high-school and joined a merchant ship bound for Japan. Forever after deeply influenced by the Japanese aesthetic, he started incorporating elements of Asian design and philosophy into his work. By the 1930’s his paintings are quiet meditative canvases characterized by a personal iconography of ethereal flowers, vessels and birds. In his paintings, he used the muted tones of the Northwest environment yet captured quietly powerful glimpses of spiritual insight and illumination. His sculptural work has the same shamanistic quality, the distillation of a moment of enlightenment - a spiritual universe glimpsed fleetingly and captured like lightening in a milky bottle. Success came early to Morris Graves and in 1936 the Seattle Art Museum offered him his first solo show. Six years later, his work was included in the group show “Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States” at the Museum of Modern Art. MOMA then purchased 11 pieces for their permanent collection, and other national institutions and private collectors soon followed. Fairly reclusive, by the 1940’s the artist had built his own house he nicknamed “The Rock” on the remote and rural Fidalgo Island, an hour north of Seattle. Living alone, Morris could meditate and work without interruption. Morris did enjoy traveling with close friends and in the late 50’s, or early 60’s, Morris joined friends in Ireland at a rustic 18th century manor house outside Dublin. Troubled by the growing global anxiety over the post WWII cold war era, and fascinated with his access to the clarity of the Irish night-sky he was inspired to start a new series - Instruments for a New Navigation, a collection of bronze, glass, and stone sculptures. With these works, Graves seems to have manifested a type of talismanic navigational device to help guide mankind’s uncharted journey thru the uncharted territory of the space-race era.


Morris Graves Original Art Values Sold at Auction

Item Realized
MORRIS GRAVES (American, 1910-2001) Bird, No. 845, 1939 Gouache on paper 12-1/2 x 16-1/8 inches (31.8 x 41.0 cm) Sig
MORRIS GRAVES (American, 1910-2001)Bird, No. 845, 1939Gouache on paper12-1/2 x 16-1/8 inches (31.8 x 41.0 cm)Sig...
Lot 68046
Auction 5198
Monday, November 17, 2014
Morris Graves (American, 1910-2001) Jardinière of Dwarfs, 1950 Watercolor and pencil on paper 18-3/4 x 12-1/4 inc...
Morris Graves (American, 1910-2001)Jardinière of Dwarfs, 1950Watercolor and pencil on paper18-3/4 x 12-1/4 inches ...
Lot 68109
Auction 5286
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
MORRIS GRAVES (American, 1910-2001) Woodpecker, 1943 Tempera and ink on paper 20 x 14 inches (50.8 x 35.6 cm) Signed
MORRIS GRAVES (American, 1910-2001)Woodpecker, 1943Tempera and ink on paper20 x 14 inches (50.8 x 35.6 cm)Signed...
Lot 64174
Auction 5062
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Morris Graves (American, 1910-2001) Time of Change Screenprint 23 x 29 inches (58.4 x 73.7 cm) (sight) Titled in pla
Morris Graves (American, 1910-2001)Time of ChangeScreenprint23 x 29 inches (58.4 x 73.7 cm) (sight)Titled in pla...
Lot 64878
Auction 5260
Monday, June 27, 2016
Morris Graves (American, 1910-2001) Instruments for a New Navigation Cast metal, brass, glass, crystals, mica and othe...
Morris Graves (American, 1910-2001)Instruments for a New NavigationCast metal, brass, glass, crystals, mica and othe...
Lot 61172
Auction 5252
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

View prices realized on more items like this

PLEASE NOTE: All prices realized reflect the final hammer price PLUS the buyer's premium in auctions that charge a buyer's premium. Each item has a notation at the top of the listing indicating whether that lot included a buyer's premium. All information listed is intended to be as accurate as possible, but errors are possible. Please use this guide carefully and inform us of any inaccuracies.

Art Values

How do you know what's valuable?

Our Art Value Guide provides free information about how to value your Morris Graves artwork.

Get a FREE auction evaluation

Our experts will evaluate your Morris Graves artwork for auction or private treaty sale.

Want More Morris Graves?

Be the first to know when more items from this artist are available by adding it your wantlist.

Interested in selling or consigning?

Learn more about selling or consigning your Morris Graves artwork with Heritage Auctions.

Other artists with this Nationality