Lilian May Miller – Rain Blossoms, Japan (A)

Out of stock

Additional information

Artist

Miller, Lilian

Condition

(A) Very Fine Condition

Date

1910s-1930s

Edition

First Edition, Lifetime

Movement

Sosaku hanga

Publisher

Self published

Size

Oban (10"x15")

Subjects

Bridge, People, Rain

In preparing for her 1929-30 American tour to sell her art, Miller arranged to have an article on her work published in the mid-October issue of Art Digest. For the article she chose Rain Blossoms, and provided this description:

‘Though Japan is now in the seemingly inevitable transition from an oriental country to an up-to-date Western power, there are still to be found, both on the highways and byways of Nippon, many reminiscent touches of her ancient picturesqueness. Amongst these perhaps one of the most beautiful is the gay tinted oil paper umbrella that rich and poor, young and old alike, may be seen carrying on rainy days. These quaint round umbrellas are not only of many colors but of many patterns, an endless succession of designs of breath-taking charm; and cloudy, gloomy days in Japan take on a bright and lovely aspect when two or more of these umbrellas are glimpsed passing down a lane or crossing over an old native bridge, looking like veritable blossoms opening in the rain.”

While many of Miller’s prints are eye-catching and beautifully composed, this print is by far one of the most thoughtful and unique prints in her body of work. Her treatment of the umbrellas, contrasted with the flattened shapes that are the people, is a unique twist to the art of the time.

A rare and beautiful print contributing a unique voice to the canon of mokuhanga.

The Woodblock Print

This stunning oban-sized woodblock print is in very fine condition. Beautiful color, a clean verso, the main flaw is that the margins have been trimmed to the edge of the black image-border. A small paper flaw has some discoloration, but not distracting.

About the Artist

Lilian May Miller (1895-1943) was an American artist who made significant contributions to the world of Japanese-style woodblock prints. Born in Tokyo, Japan, Miller grew up in a multicultural environment that shaped her artistic sensibilities. She received training in traditional Japanese painting techniques from masters such as Kamisaka Sekka and Ishii Hakutei, which heavily influenced her artistic style (Lakdawalla, 2019).

Miller’s career flourished during a time when female artists faced significant challenges and limited opportunities. Despite these obstacles, she forged her path as an independent artist, successfully blending Eastern and Western aesthetics in her works. Miller’s art often depicted serene landscapes, delicate flowers, and traditional Japanese themes, showcasing her technical skill and artistic vision (Davidson, 2007).

During her time in Japan, Miller interacted with notable artists and scholars, some of whom became her contemporaries and collaborators. One such artist was Bertha Lum, who also specialized in Japanese woodblock prints. Lum’s friendship and artistic partnership with Miller helped foster a supportive environment for their respective endeavors (Lakdawalla, 2019).

In addition to her artistic achievements, Miller’s career was significantly impacted by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The devastating earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed much of her artwork and forced her to relocate. This event marked a turning point in Miller’s life and art, prompting her to experiment with new styles and techniques (Davidson, 2007).

Miller’s work also reflected her engagement with feminist ideals. As a female artist in a male-dominated field, she challenged societal norms and strove for recognition and equal opportunities. Through her art and advocacy, Miller contributed to the broader feminist movement and the empowerment of women in the arts (Lakdawalla, 2019).

Tragically, Miller’s life was cut short when she passed away in 1943. However, her artistic legacy lives on, and her contributions to the field of woodblock prints continue to be appreciated and studied. Miller’s work serves as a testament to her talent, perseverance, and cultural bridge-building, making her an important figure in the history of Japanese-inspired art in America (Davidson, 2007).

References:

  • Davidson, S. R. (2007). Lilian Miller and Japanese woodblock prints. Print Quarterly, 24(4), 376-381.
  • Lakdawalla, E. (2019). Miller, Lilian May. In Oxford Art Online.