© Mark Tobey by SIAE

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Mark Tobey was born and spent his youth in the American Midwest in 1890. His inclination for and love of drawing was evident even as a boy, when he produced magazine covers and drawings for catalogue illustrations. He left Chicago in 1911 and moved to Greenwich Village, New York, to try his hand at fashion design. Over the next decade, his talent was increasingly appreciated, making Tobey a sought-after painter, portraying numerous personalities of the time. Between the 1920s and 1940s he travelled extensively in the East: from China to Japan, where he spent a month as a guest of a Zen monastery, and then to the Middle East, where he visited Bahá'í shrines. He held important exhibitions in England and the United States. In 1958 he won the first prize at the Venice Biennale, while in 1961 the Louvre dedicated a personal exhibition to him with over 300 works, the first for a foreign artist. In 1974, the "National Collection of Fine Arts", a department of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, organised an exhibition of 70 of the artist's works, on the occasion of the exhibition Hommage à Mark Tobey. He died in Basel in 1976.

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