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Obata, Chiura (1885 - 1975), "Lake Basin in High Sierra (Limited Edition)"

"Lake Basin in High Sierra (Limited Edition)" by Obata, Chiura
Catalog ID A2928
Artist Chiura Obata
Title Lake Basin in High Sierra (Limited Edition)
Medium Original Limited Edition Japanese Woodblock Print
Series Title World Landscape Series - "America"
Edition First Edition; signed and numbered by the artist
Date 1930
Publisher Tadeo Takamizawa
Reference No Smithsonian American Art Museum; “Obata’s Yosemite”, pgs. 60-67
Size 15 x 20 "
Condition Fine.

Notes: A limited-edition first state. Signed and numbered in pencil by the artist. Brush signature in black ink, with red "Chiura" artist chop below. Titled in both Japanese and English, "Lake Basin in the High Sierra". The lower right margin includes "no. 57" within a fan-shaped cartouche and bearing the seals of carver Baba Shizuka and printer Manjuro. Both carver and printer seals do not appear on any of the prints in the portfolio edition, and it is possible that this first print was created without the collaboration of Takamizawa.

According to the Obata family records, a total of 107 impressions were needed to complete the final printing of this design in order to replicate all the subtleties of Obata's original watercolor. Although the artist was, by all accounts, a man of very modest means, he chose to have progressive proofs made after each printing stage for several of the woodblock prints in the World Landscape Series, a costly and unusual practice. This decision may have been motivated by his interest in offering demonstrations of the carving and printing processes on his return to the United States. As a result, the printmaking technique used in the preparation of the portfolio can be analyzed and studied.

From the World Landscape series, this groundbreaking effort by Obata propelled him to spend all his personal savings to create a series of prints with the highest possible standards. The project employed more than 32 carvers and 40 printers for eighteen months. In order to give the effect of a watercolor, scores of blocks were used for each design, and specially prepared paper was made. The printing was supervised by Obata and the Master Printers Masuro, Tadao, and Takaaki Takamizawa at the Takamizawa Print Works in Japan. There is a detailed description of the printing of this image in the book "Obata's Yosemite..." by Janice Driesbach and Susan Landauer, Yosemite Association, 1993 on pages 60 through 67, which includes 9 color reproductions of 9 of the 106 states. There is a greatly beloved large painting on silk of this scene in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

For just two months in the year the nameless lake nestling at the foot of Johnson Peak in the High Sierra comes to life from its wintery slumber. Rocks and five-needle pines along the shore cling to each other tightly. Countless streams run down the frozen mountainside, lending a sublime melody. Man's very soul and body seem to melt away into the singular silence and tranquility of the surrounding air.

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