Exploring the Artistic Roots of Seattle: Collecting Mid-Century Art from the Emerald City

The vibrant city of Seattle is renowned for its thriving art scene, encompassing a diverse array of styles and periods. Among the most sought-after is mid-century art, which represents a unique blend of innovation, simplicity, and artistic expression. From iconic artists to prominent galleries and tips for starting your own collection, let's delve into the heart of mid-century art in the Emerald City.

The Rise of Mid-Century Art in Seattle

Mid-century art emerged during the 1940s and 1950s as a response to the changing cultural landscape after World War II. Seattle played a significant role in this artistic movement, becoming a hotbed for creative innovation, fueled by the city's unique blend of natural beauty, innovative spirit, diversity, and intellectual curiosity. Seattle boasts an impressive lineup of mid-century artists who have left an indelible mark on the art world. Mark Tobey's mystical abstract expressionism to Morris Graves' symbolic nature-inspired works, the city has nurtured diverse talents that continue to inspire art enthusiasts worldwide.

Beyond the so-called “Big Four,” Tobey, Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Irving Anderson, the Japanese American artists Kamekichi Tokita, Paul Horiuchi, Kenjiro Nomura and George Tsutakawa were influential in defining the regional modernism of the Pacific Northwest. Michael Spafford and Jacob Lawrence, both faculty at the University of Washington, influenced a generation of Seattle artists including Marvin Oliver and Barbara Earl Thomas. They laid the groundwork for the contemporary art scene in Seattle.

Must-Visit Museums

To truly immerse oneself in the world of mid-century art, visiting Seattle's prominent galleries and museums is a must. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) houses an exceptional collection, showcasing works by local and international mid-century artists. The Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds exhibits arts and design in the Northwest from 1860-1970. The Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner has a permanent collection that included seminal work of the "Big Four" (Anderson, Callahan, Graves, and Tobey).

The Art of Curating Your Collection

Building a mid-century art collection requires careful consideration and a discerning eye. Understanding the nuances of different styles, mediums, and artists can help you curate a cohesive and captivating collection that reflects your preferences. Once you've started your mid-century art collection, it's essential to preserve and display it properly. Taking preventive measures to protect artworks from acid mats and from environmental factors like moisture can enhance the longevity and impact of your collection.

Unearthing Hidden Gems: Local Auctions and Vintage Stores

Participating in art auctions can be an exciting way to expand your mid-century art collection. Local auction houses and art events provide a platform to bid on rare pieces and engage in the thrill of acquiring sought-after artworks. Seattle's thriving vintage and flea market scene provide an exciting opportunity to discover hidden gems of mid-century art. Exploring places like Fremont Vintage Mall can lead to serendipitous finds that add character and history to your collection.

The Timelessness of Mid-Century Art

One of the remarkable aspects of mid-century art is its timeless appeal. Whether you're a seasoned collector or a novice art enthusiast, the elegance and simplicity of mid-century pieces make them an enduring investment. The influence of mid-century art can still be felt in contemporary artistic expressions. Exploring how modern artists draw inspiration from mid-century aesthetics adds depth and context to your understanding of the movement. Seattle's mid-century art scene offers an enthralling journey into the past, present, and future of artistic expression. As you embark on your own collecting adventure, remember that art is an ever-evolving reflection of our world and a celebration of creativity. So, whether you're captivated by abstract expressionism or enamored with nature-inspired symbolism, exploring mid-century art in the Seattle area promises a gratifying and enlightening experience. Happy collecting!