Chiura Obata Woodblock Prints, ca. 1930

Value (2003) | $4,000 Retail$5,000 Retail

What I have are two wood-block prints by a UC professor named Obata. My grandmother had another painting by this artist, and I got interested in the artist and so I ran some searches and saw them and I thought, "What a great opportunity," so I bought them.

And how much did you pay for them?

Well, I ended up paying $500, which...

For the pair?

Each, which at the time seemed like a lot of money.

Well, you're right, these are by Obata, Chiura Obata, who did teach, as you mentioned, at UC Berkeley. He came to California as a young man and studied art and studied in Japan as well and became extremely proficient. He was a watercolorist, and these are two prints from his High Sierra series. The series itself is called the "World" series. But the most famous prints are these, from the High Sierra, where he spent a lot of time. He used to go up there sketching and do watercolors on this scene. And, in fact, these wood-block prints started as watercolors and he took them to Japan in 1928-- they were taken to Takamizawa, one of the great color printmakers in Japan in '28-- and they did them as this "World" series from the watercolors. And if you see the original, you'd swear that they were identical. So Takamizawa, the printer, did a great job in reproducing these as wood-block prints, and the story is that only a hundred sets were done, and they were signed and sealed by him. They certainly did an overrun, some other prints as well, and that's what these are, because these don't happen to be signed and sealed by Obata. Affects the value to some degree, but they are genuine, because you were showing me that you have the original folders they came on with the printed title and the Takamizawa seal. So there's no question that they are genuine. A very strong print here of this Mount Johnson with an unknown lake. This is called Silence and that is called Struggle, as in this pine trying to struggle along through the rocks on the way towards Johnson Pass. So two wonderful Sierra views. Do you have any idea of what they might be worth on the market?

Well, I know what I paid for them, and that's... that's about it. I hope they're worth more than I paid for them.

Well, they are worth more than you paid for them. That's certainly true. As a pair, I would say that in a retail establishment or even at auction, that they would be between $4,000 and $5,000 for the pair or $2,000 to $2,500 each. They're of equal value, because they came from that same series in 1930.


Appraisal Details

Castle Fine Arts, Inc.
Del Mar, CA
Appraised value (2003)
$4,000 Retail$5,000 Retail
San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2003)

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