Lilian May Miller – Moonrise Over Ancient Gateway, Korea

$2,600.00

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Additional information

Artist

Miller, Lilian

Condition

(A) Very Fine Condition

Date

1910s-1930s

Edition

First Edition, Lifetime, Limited, Numbered

Movement

Shin-hanga

Publisher

Self published

Size

Aiban (9″x13″)

Miller liked to produce hand-written notes to accompany her woodblock prints which typically emphasized and embellished on the theme of ancient cultures and traditions set in eternally beautiful and peaceful landscapes. Brown records the narrative for this composition in Between Two Worlds:

Down the length of a typical Korean village runs a broad country road, guarded on either side by tall poplars that rustle with a silken whisper in the evening breeze. At the very end of the village stands an ancient gateway, once an entrance to the palace of some powerful ‘yangban,’ or Governor, now a dwelling place for the flickering bat and velvet-winged moth; yet still beautiful, with iridescent hills of Korea glimpsed through its spacious archway. As the dim afterglow of the vanished sun throws tapering poplar shadows across the road, and the summer moon rises from its purple nest behind the mountains, the people of the village come from their evening bowls of rice to enjoy the cool air and hold pleasant converse with their neighbors. There is always a cool tranquility, an unhurried peace, about such Korean evenings, as if the many sleeping centuries which have passed over this picturesque land left something behind them of the mellow and age-old serenity. (p. 55)

This print was initially issued in 1921 when Miller was working with the professional carver Matsumoto and printer Nishimura Kumakichi II.

Numbered 24 in the bottom right corner of the image, later issues of this image do not seem to have been numbered. Based on the date this is a first edition of the print.

The Woodblock Print

Measuring 7.5″ x 12.5″ (we’re categorizing as aiban), this woodblock print is in very fine condition. Beautiful color, a mostly clean verso with some tape residue, full and clean margins. Even toning to the paper, light toning lines in the margins. Pen signed, copyrighted, numbered in the bottom edge of the image.

A rare, numbered first edition of this print. Almost all others previously found on the market have been the later, open edition from 1928.

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.