Miller

Lilian May Miller

1895-1943

Morning Snow on Bamboo, Japan (A)

color woodblock print; with artist's red LM monogram in lower right corner, and signed and dated in ink at lower left, copyright-1920-by Lilian Miller, and numbered in ink the right corner, No.112, with the title stamped in green in the margin below, MORNING SNOW ON BAMBOO, JAPAN A, and stamped to the right, LILIAN MILLER Oriental Woodcuts, blocks carved by Matsumoto and printed by Nishimura Kumakichi II in 1920 (first edition)

17 5/8 by 7 1/4 in., 44.9 by 18.5 cm

Lilian May Miller was born in Japan in 1895. Her father, Ransford, worked at the American embassy in Tokyo and her mother, Lilly, taught English at the Christian mission. In 1904, at the age of nine, Lilian enrolled in the atelier of Kano Tomonobu (1843-1912), one of the last Kano school masters. Tomonobu was well-known in the tightly-knit community of expatriates: he gave private lessons to a number of foreign artists, including Emil Orlik (1870-1932), Helen Hyde (1868-1919), and briefly, Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922).

By 1920 she was living as the tenant of the formidable Bertha Lum, and had turned to printmaking as a way of supplementing her income. It is presumably thanks to Lum that Miller began to work with the block carver Matsumoto (who had worked for Helen Hyde) and the printer Nishimura Kumakichi II, upon whom Lum had come to rely on completely for her own print productions. Shortly thereafter there was a dramatic falling-out between the two artists; the exact cause is not known but it seemed to stem from some issues regarding artistic integrity. Interestingly, Miller also struggled with a relationship with Elizabeth Keith, who began as a friend but later developed into a rival (see Brown, Lilian Miller: An American Artist in Japan, in Impressions 27, 2006, for an untangling of these conflicts).

Miller’s early prints published in 1919-1920, such a this one, were certainly carved by Matsumoto and printed by Nishimura Kumakichi II, but at some point along the way, she learned block-carving and printing herself. After the 1923 earthquake Miller suffered near-financial ruin as well as a long period of illness. Beginning in 1927, Miller began producing self-carved and self-printed works as well as new impressions of her early prints in preparation for a tour of America in 1929-30, including a new version of this design with a mica background in 1928.

References:
Kendall H. Brown, Between Two Worlds: The Life and Art of Lilian May Miller, 1998, fig. 27 (1921 version); fig 43 (1928 version)
Kendall H. Brown, Lilian Miller: An American Artist in Japan, in Impressions 27, 2006, pp. 80-97
(inv. no. 10-5462)

price: $1,800

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