motifs, landscapes, figurative art
Media Graphic arts,
printmaking, oils, watercolors, book illustration, photography
Artistic Focus Lilian
Miller painted delicate, beautiful
imagery. While most other artists in her genre
trained in Western art schools and only later explored Japanese techniques,
Miller saw Japanese painting and printmaking as her first mode of artistic
expression; and while many artists turned their work over to publishers,
Miller did all of her own carving and printing as part of her devotion
to the Japanese art tradition.
• Born in Tokyo in 1895, the daughter of a U.S.
Consul General, Lilian May Miller was educated at the American School
there. At age nine she began her training in Japanese painting methods
under the court painter to the Emperor, and at age 12 was exhibited at
the Imperial Salon at the Ueno Academy of Fine Arts.
• When her family came back to the U.S. in 1913, Miller attended Vassar
College, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
• Returning to Japan, Miller studied with the progressive artist Shimada
Bokusen, receiving numerous awards and, inspired by her friend Helen
Hyde, after 1920 she specialized in making woodblock prints in the Japanese
manner. Many of her finished prints as well as paintings were destroyed
in the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923.
• Miller authored and illustrated a book of poetry entitled Grass
Blades from a Cinnamon Garden, published in 1927, and by the 1930s she was in
the Los Angeles area, where she lectured on and demonstrated block printing
at the California Art club.
• One of the ways Miller distributed her prints was through a network
of primarily female friends and, indeed, her collectors and dealers comprised
a group of key women art patrons of the time, including Empress Nagako
of Japan; Lou Henry Hoover, wife of President Herbert Hoover; Anne Morrow
Lindbergh; and Pasadena art dealer Grace Nicholson. It was Nicholson's
Pasadena residence, now the Pacific Asia Museum, where Miller perhaps
felt most at home outside Japan.
• Arriving in San Francisco in 1938, Lilian Miller lived there for only
five years when cancer ended her life at the age of 47. Many of her prints
were donated to Scripps College.
Additional biographical material and full bibliographic
references are available upon request.
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