There is an irony in Morris Graves’s status as a modern artist: in certain respects he was a medieval character. He worked mainly in tempera. He fled from one remote locale to another until he found himself on 195 acres in Humboldt County, California, which was finally sufficient to isolate him from the encroachments of modern life. A mystical bent prompted him to study Hinduism and embrace Zen. His efforts resulted in some of the finest religious art of the twentieth century—and not despite its syncretism and consequent lack of affiliation, but because of it.

Graves was born in 1910, and Michael Rosenfeld Gallery has mounted “Morris Graves: Falcon of the Inner Eye, A Centennial Celebration” in his honor. Graves’s work has long inspired devoted collecting, even at the outset of his career. The Seattle Art Museum gave him his first solo show when he was twenty-six. By 1942, he had been included in three...


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