American painter, whose work has affinities with oriental calligraphy. Born in Centerville, Wisconsin. Received little formal training in art apart from a few lessons at the Art Institute of Chicago. Worked for some years in New York as fashion illustrator, interior decorator and portrait draughtsman, experimenting with fantastic drawings for his own satisfaction. First one-man exhibition of portraits at the Knoedler Gallery, New York, 1917. Became a lifelong adherent to the Baha'i World Faith in 1918. Lived in Seattle, on the West Coast, 1922-30, apart from 1925-6 in Europe, followed by 1930-8 mainly in England, at Dartington Hall in Devonshire. Also travelled to Mexico and the Near East, and in 1934-5 to China, where he spent a month in a Zen monastery. Began to develop his 'white writing' in 1934-5. Returned to the USA in 1938, settling in Seattle. Made a number of works inspired by Seattle's open-air market, followed by many with all-over abstract brushwork or dynamic white lines. Received growing recognition from 1944, including the City of Venice painting prize at the 1958 Venice Biennale and First Prize for Painting at the 1961 Pittsburgh International. Spent his last years from 1960 at Basle in Switzerland, where he died.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.724