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Archive: Obata Chiura (小圃千浦)

Cypress tree (watercolor on paper, sumi-e)
Chiura Obata
Artist Seal: Chiura (千浦)
NA (watercolor)
c. 1930s
(H x W)
Double ôban
51.5 x 38.5 cm
NA (watercolor)
Very good condition, Unbacked; a few minor creases near lower edge, slight dog ear of LR corner
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: OBT06


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.


This view of a cypress tree was sketched en plein air, possibly in the Sierras or along the California coast. Although many of Obata's landscapes contain a strong measure of topographical realism, he was more interested in capturing kiin seidô ("living moment": 気韻生動), i.e., the essential nature of a scene. This quality of observation and perceptiveness was transmitted through the artist's intuitive connection with the spirit of the subject. Kiin seidô is evident in Obata's painting through the interplay of wet and dry brush strokes, and simplified forms and empty space — enhanced with pale colors. The energy of Obata's brushwork is an expression of living natural beauty.


  • 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.
  • ShiPu Wang: Chiura Obata: An American Modern. Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2018.