Morris Graves

Morris Graves Vessel in a Drift of Diamond Light in the Sky of the Mind 

tempera on paper  51" by 82" 1944

Morris Graves Bird, Moon and Falling Stars chalk and ink on paper 30.5"x26.25" 1940

Roger Brown has contributed these two works by the fascinating Surrealist painter and mystic Morris Graves (1911-2001). Roger has this to say:

I've been rediscovering Morris Graves' work recently. To me, he is one of those artists whose originality is continually refreshing and never burdensome. "Burdensome" meaning only that you have to take the day off to get the most out of such wonderful books as Thomas Mann's "Dr. Faustus" and Joyce's "Finnegans Wake." 

Within the "parallel universe" he creates to make poetic transformations of objects and ideas from the "real world," Graves' consistency and even level of quality means that almost any of his pieces can immediately be identified as his. In this manner Graves belongs to a group that includes John Marin, Braque, Wallace Stevens, Brancusi, Ronald Firbank, and Mark Tobey.

Although composers don't take from the "real world" of empirical facts to make their music, the superbly accomplished and self-contained body of work built up from Haydn to Brahms and Wagner constituted (at least for a while in Western culture) a musical equivalent to the material universe. Some composers do something poetically and mystically with what they take from this corpus of musical "realism" very similar to what Graves did with Chinese bronzes and birds and the moon, e.g, Arnold Schoenberg in "Five Pieces for Orchestra," Gustav Holst when he wrote "Neptune" and "Egdon Heath" and the chamber opera "Savitri" and, from Graves' exact generation, Alan Hovanhess in his "Fra Angelico" and his late mountain symphonies, "From the Green Mountains" and "Mt. St. Helens" and Elizabeth Lutyens in her song sequence, "And Suddenly It's Evening." Elliott Carter has in recent years purified his style to a very moving sort of strenuous lyricism in pieces for solo strings that I would also cite as examples of poetic transformation. 

Morris Graves Snake and the Moon watercolor/gouache on paper 20 inches by 25 c. 1940

Thanks Roger!

Morris Graves  
photo by Imogen Cunningham 1950

In honor of Elizabeth Wilson's passionate interest in the subject of changeable skies, for the rest of September we'll be looking at landscape paintings with a strong emphasis on the heavens. If you have an image of a painting, drawing or photograph with a focus on the sky (not your own work please) and a few thoughts you'd like to share, please email me and I'll set up a post for you. 

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