Chiura Obata Topaz Times Painting, 01011943

Chiura Obata Topaz Times Painting, 01/01/1943

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Description (Brief)
Japanese American prisoners tried to make life as normal as possible during their confinement. Many camps even had newspapers, and Obata used his artistic abilities to create art for the newspaper at the Topaz camp, the Topaz Times. This ad depicts a blue, almost abstract landscape. Obata tried to make life as productive as possible during his imprisonment, he was very active in the community of the camp, spearheading the art school as well as drawing for the Topaz Times.
An illustration by Chiura Obata (1885-1975) from The Topaz Times. The Topaz Times was the camp newsletter for the Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp in Utah, publishing from 1942 to 1945. The painting is a blue mountain stream surrounded by trees in Chiura Obata’s distinct quasi-abstract brushwork style. Lettering on the top of the page reads “Page 2, Topaz Times, Jan. 1, 1943” and his signature appears in both English and Japanese in the bottom left hand corner. Articles from the Topaz Times are on the back of the image.
Born Zoroku Obata in Okayama-ken, Japan in 1885, Obata moved to California in 1903 and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to live and work in the United States. Obata was the first artist of Japanese descent to be a faculty member at UC Berkeley, where he started teaching in 1932. In 1942 he and his family were removed from Berkeley and imprisoned at the Tanforan temporary detention center and Topaz Japanese American incarceration camp under Executive Order 9066. At Tanforan, Obata started an art school with George Matsusaburo Hibi which he continued upon transfer to Topaz, teaching hundreds of students and creating a large body of artwork depicting everyday life in the camps and surrounding landscapes. Obata became a naturalized citizen in 1954, a year after retiring as Professor Emeritus from UC Berkeley. He spent the rest of his life traveling widely, lecturing and demonstrating Japanese brush painting. Obata is most well-known for his signature style of painting which blends Japanese and Western techniques and his large-scale landscapes. He also created an award-winning series of color woodblock prints at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan inspired by his 1927 trip to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Chiura Obata died on October 6, 1975 at age 89.
Currently not on view
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Physical Description
paper (overall material)
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overall: 14 in x 8 1/2 in; 35.56 cm x 21.59 cm
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Credit Line
Gift of Koho Yamamoto
See more items in
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Japanese American
Executive Order 9066
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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