To say that the artwork of Chiura Obata (1885-1975) is an artistic reflection of his bicultural identity does not seem too much of a stretch, as his American landscapes fuse intricately with the Japanese-style painting techniques in which he was a master.

Obata, who started painting with sumi (ink) at the age of 7, displayed artistic talent from an early age. At 14 he began apprenticing under the famous Japanese painter Tanryo Murata, but decided to immigrate to America four years later to learn more about the western world.

He worked as an illustrator for Japanese publications in San Francisco, but his career took a turn after he was invited by Worth Ryder to Yosemite for a sketching trip. Falling in love with the scenery, he went back to every year until his death, and Yosemite eventually became the model for many of his famous works.

Having experienced living in the internment camps during World War Two, Obata proactively made efforts to introduce American to the aesthetics of Japanese art, and strived to create mutual understanding between the two cultures to prevent future conflicts. And these efforts were not in vain — in 1965 he was awarded the Emperor’s Medal in Tokyo for his contributions in promoting understanding between Japan and the United States.

Lake Basin in High Sierra


Source: Chiura Obata

Setting Sun in the Sacramento Valley


Source: Chiura Obata

Full Moon, Pasadena, California


Source: Chiura Obata

Morning at Mono Lake


Source: Chiura Obata

Death Grave's Pass and Tenaya Peak


Source: Chiura Obata

Evening Glow, Mono Lake


Source: Chiura Obata

Eagle Peak Trail


Source: Chiura Obata

Evening Moon


Source: Chiura Obata

Dana Creek


Source: Chiura Obata

Silent Moonlight at Tanforan Relocation Center


Source: Chiura Obata

Evening Glow at Lyell Fork, Tuolumne Meadows


Source: Chiura Obata

Before the Rain, Mono Lake


Source: Chiura Obata

By - grape Japan editorial staff.