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Archive: Obata Chiura (小圃千浦)

Description:
Dawn, Knight's Ferry, Stanislaus County
Signature:
Unsigned (as are many surviving impressions in Obata's "World Landscape Series")
Seals:
Artist Seal: Obata Chiura (小圃 千浦)
Publisher:
Takamizawa (高見沢) Color-Print Studio, Tokyo
Date:
1930
Format:
(H x W)
Double ôban
34.5 x 45.5 cm
Impression:
Excellent
Condition:
Excellent color and very good condition, unbacked; slight tone line along upper edge, two corners slightly clipped
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD

Inquiry: OBT05

Comments:
Background

Obata Chiura (小圃千浦, November 18, 1885 - October 6, 1975) was born Obata Zoroku in Okayama, Japan and grew up in Sendai. He emigrated to California in 1903, where he pursued and taught painting and printmaking, leaving behind a highly distinctive and important body of work. His biography is summarized at our Obata Biography page.

Design

According to the catalog featuring Obata's works on Yosemite (reference below), Obata described Dawn, Knight's Ferry, Stanislaus County as a "quiet hamlet on the banks of the Stanislaus River in the Sierra foothills. Here a restful night was spent camping by the side of the famous Big Oak Flat Road, which runs from Oakdale to Yosemite. The cackling of chickens had awakened the sleeper to behold the dawn." Established by Dr. William Knight in 1849 for its favorable river crossing in gold rush territory, today the site remains an unincorporated historic community.

Begun in 1928 and continuing for 18 months, Obata's World Landscape Series required 32 block cutters and 40 printers to complete 400 impressions each of 35 designs. Each finished print required numerous impressions from multiple blocks in order to meet Obata's very high standards for translating his distinctive watercolors into woodblock prints. Some printings of certain designs purportedly needed from 100 to as many as 160 impressions. All but one design was a California subject (27 were scenes of Yosemite). Supposedly, of the 400 impressions made of each design, only the finest 100 examples were selected for the folios published by Tadeo Takamizawa. The "rejects," which numbered 10,500 impressions, were said to have been destroyed. The folder has the publisher's pasted stamp, plus a printed title (misspelled "Down" and an incorrect county name, "Tuolomn[e]"), along with the artist's and publisher's names.

As with our example, many of the published prints were not signed and sealed. Our impression is a rare variant printing, with more heavily printed trees in the middle distance, differences in gradated shading of colors, and a more variegated sky than in the standard published version.

Other standard impressions are in the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Acc. #2000.76.1) and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (Acc #1963.30.3126.1).

References: Janice Driesbach and Susan Landauer: Obata's Yosemite: The Art and Letters of Chiura Obata from His Trip to the High Sierra in 1927, Yosemite Association, 1993, pp. 36, 54, and 56.