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Virtual Asian-American Art Museum Project

Alexei Taylor, Author

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Chiura Obata


1885 Honshu, Japan


1975 Berkeley, USA


1885: Honshu, Japan
1890: near Sendai, Japan
1899: Tokyo, Japan
1903-1975: Berkeley, USA [1942-1943: Tanforan, California and Topaz, Utah (in Japanese internment camps]


1892-1903: Apprenticed with painters of the Shinjo, Tosa, and Kano Schools in Japan.

Selected Work:

Evening Glow at Yosemite Falls, 1930. Color woodblock print, 15 ¾ x 11 in.
Eagle Peak Trail, 1930. Color woodblock print, 15 ¾ x 11 in.
Sunset, Sacramento Valley, 1930. Color woodblock print, 15 ¾ x 11 in
Topaz War Relocation Center by Moonlight, 1943.
Glorious Struggle, 1965. Sumi on Silk, 36 X 22 in.


Obata’s Yosemite: the art and letters of Chiura Obata from his trip to the High Sierra in 1927. Yosemite National Park, CA: Yosemite Association, 1993.
Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment. Berkeley: Kimi Kodani Hill, 2000.
Hill, Kimi and Chiura Obata. Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment (2000)
Ross, Michael. Nature Art with Chiura Obata. 2000.


Chiura Obata found beauty and inspiration in nature. His art is continually powerful and respectful despite the fact that Obata survived events such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Tanforan and Topaz internment camps during World War II. Even with the adversities he faced in a climate hostile to his nationality, Obata rose to prominence for both his art and his leadership. He showed in exhibitions but also co-founded artist groups such as the East West Society in 1922 and served as a professor of art at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1932-42 and then continuing after the war from 1945-54. His early education in Japan taught him to merge the aesthetics of traditional sumi-e ink and brush painting with the Western conventions of naturalism and perspective. This innovative blend of techniques fundamentally influenced the distinctive traits of the California Watercolor School.

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