Artist: Chiura Obata (1885-1975)
Title: Carmel By the Sea Painting on Silk
Date: Undated, ca. 1940s
Important painting on silk of this uniquely California view along the scenic northern coast. Misty clouds, crashing waves and anchored rocks all have their distinct features and depth, all brought to life with only black pigment and a brush.
Obata began his sumi-e training in Japan at the age of seven, and he learned how to create “color” variations using only black ink for the first seven years of his training. Obata also painted and sketched every day of his life to keep the fluid precision of his brush throughout the decades of his career. However, formal works like this one on silk are surprisingly scarce. Obata also seems to have added mica to the silk, which is unmounted, as there is an extra sparkle that enlivens the surface of the work.
Obata's renderings of ancient trees were sometimes considered to be representative of Obata himself--stubbornly clinging to America and his own high ideals despite the mistreatment he often received in his adopted land. Obata taught at Berkeley for more than two decades; despite being a University professor he was interned along with thousands of Japanese Americans in 1942. As he wrote in "Topaz Moon": "We were forced to artificially leave the land where we had lived and move into those stables in Tanforan. This was a kind of sin that was intolerable. From this sin, we had to bring these schoolchildren back to equality. We had to do something about it. My first thought was to open an art school and start teaching everyone." (page 37). The latest book on this artist, "Chiura Obata: American Modern" offers a fresh context for Obata as an American Modernist master. Here we see his combination of the best of Japanese technique with the fresh perspective and unique beauty of the California landscape. The work is unmounted, and has an optional frame from which it is easily removed.
Provenance: Garzoli Gallery, San Rafael.
Dimensions: 51 x 39 cm, approx.
Seal: Artist’s seal in red
Signature: Chiura Obata
LIterature: "Chiura Obata's Topaz Moon: Art of the Internment", edited by Kimi Kodani Hill, 2000. "Chiura Obata: An American Modern" by ShiPu Wang, 2018.