Mark Tobey was born in Centerville, Wisconsin and received little or no formal art training aside from a few lessons at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1906. At first he worked as a fashion illustrator in New York, and then as an interior decorator and draughtsman in 1911. Tobey studied Arabian literature and East Asian philosophy and in 1918 converted to the Baha’i faith and joined their world church. Tobey described his faith and its influence on his art:
The root of all religions, from the Baha’i point of view, is based on the theory that man will gradually come to understand the unity of the world and the oneness of mankind. It teaches that all the prophets are one – that science and religion are the two great powers which must be balanced if man is to become mature. I feel my work has been influence by these beliefs. I’ve tried to decentralize and interpenetrate so that all parts of a painting are of related value…Mine are the Orient, the Occident, science, religion, cities, space, and writing a picture.
Kunsthalle Mannheim, 1961
Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris
Private Collection, New York