Saturday, August 6, 2016

Chiura Obata at the 'Wild West Show' at the Legion

Setting Sun. Courtesy Legion of Honor, SF
One of the more pleasant aspects of the Legion’s  Wild West Show was seeing some of the works of Chiura Obata. His work is seldom seen and it’s absolutely spectacular. Obara was born in Japan, came here at the age of seventeen and was an important teacher until his death in 1975.

He knew at an early age he wanted to be an artist and lucky for him, he was allowed to do so. At age 14, he was able to move from his home in Sendai, Japan. There he came under the influence of the nihonga movement - Japanese style paintings which also incorporated western ideas such as perspective and three-dimensional modeling. He won an important medal for his art work and in 1930, came to San Francisco. He remained in the Bay Area for the rest of his life.

Death's Grave, 1930. Private Collection

Chiura Obata ( November 18, 1885 – October 6, 1975) [2] was a well-known Japanese-American artist and popular art teacher.  A self-described "roughneck", Obata went to the United States in 1903, at age 17. After initially working as an illustrator and commercial decorator, he had a successful career as a painter, following a 1927 summer spent in the Sierra Nevada, and was a faculty member in the Art Department at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1932 to 1954, interrupted by World War II when he spent over a year in internment camps. After his retirement, he continued to paint and to lead group tours to Japan to see gardens and art.

Full Moon, Pasadena. 1930. Woodcut. Whitney Museum of Art
His work is a fusion of Japanese styles along with the Arts and Crafts style popular at the time. His reverence for nature and his love for Yosemite are reflected in the numerous watercolors and wood block prints that he created - few of which are on display at any time (alas). From his first trip to Yosemite in 1926, Obara made the glories of that landscape the focus of his art, creating some of the most beautiful and spiritual paintings of the West ever done.

Wild West at the Legion of Honor through September 16.

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

Another painter I knew nothing about. Thank you. I like his work. My favorite piece that you posted here is the Full Moon. It's really beautiful!