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Mark Tobey

17 3/4 x 11 9/16 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

The title Canticle refers to liturgical hymns taken from the Bible and used in church services. Tobey was a follower of the Baha'i faith, which teaches the oneness of mankind and borrows elements from many different religions. The intricate pattern of light-colored calligraphic symbols that animates the abstract surface of this work came to be known as "white writing," and was inspired by the artist’s study of Arabic and Japanese calligraphy.