fbpx
Exhibition

Chiura Obata

December 21, 2023–July 14, 2024
Floor 2

Explore the work of Chiura Obata, one of California’s most important twentieth-century artists.

In this exhibition, forty jewel-like watercolors, woodblock prints, and ink paintings trace Obata’s long, influential career as a Bay Area artist and professor. Obata was a Japanese émigré who arrived in San Francisco in 1903 and spent the next seven decades depicting the natural world around him, from the lakes of the High Sierras to the morning glories blooming at his Berkeley home. In the early 1940s, Obata’s tenure as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, was interrupted when he and his family were imprisoned. At Tanforan Racetrack and Topaz incarceration camp, he painted the distraught world around him while also founding art schools that served nearly a thousand students. Obata eventually returned to Berkeley, where he resumed his university position until his retirement in 1954. He became a naturalized citizen that year, his faith in California’s “Great Nature” unwavering and his hope in the idea of America still alive. On view are works spanning several decades of the artist’s practice. Most are gifts of Obata’s estate, and the museum is grateful for its extraordinary generosity.


Portait of Chiura Obata painting in his home, 1944; photo: Hikaru Iwasaki

“I dedicate my paintings, first, to the grand nature of California, which, over the long years, in sad as well as in delightful times, has always given me great lessons, comfort, and nourishment.”

— Chiura Obata


Exhibition Preview

Chiura Obata, Mono Crater, 1930; collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Estate of Chiura Obata; photo: Tenari Tuatagaloa
Chiura Obata, Untitled (Fish, Bottom View), 1936; collection SFMOMA, gift of the Estate of Chiura Obata; © Estate of Chiura Obata; photo: Tenari Tuatagaloa
Chiura Obata, Mess Hall Line, 1942; collection SFMOMA, gift of the Estate of Chiura Obata; © Estate of Chiura Obata; photo: Tenari Tuatagaloa
Chiura Obata, Sevier Desert, 1943; collection SFMOMA, gift of the Estate of Chiura Obata; © Estate of Chiura Obata; photo: James Gouldethorpe
Chiura Obata, Morning Glories 19, 1934; collection SFMOMA, gift of the Estate of Chiura Obata; ©️ Estate of Chiura Obata; photo: Tenari Tuatagaloa

Community support for Chiura Obata is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.