Lilian May Miller (1895-1943)
untitled painting of reeds, 1939
watercolor and ink on paperboard with mica dust
24 x 24″ image, 36″ square in original frame, new linen mat
signed with chop lower left.
price on request
Note: It is rare to find a Miller painting. It is said she did less than 100 and many were destroyed in the earthquake. Here is an interesting article on the artist.
A woman who lived between two cultures, she was a native of Japan, but her parents were Americans. She was the daughter of Ransford Miller, an American embassy official in Japan and of Lily Murray, a New York born woman who taught English in Japan.
Lily was educated in Japanese methods of painting and exhibited at the Imperial Salon at the Ueno Academy of Fine Arts. She was awarded with the art name of “Gyokka,” meaning Jeweled Flower. In 1913, her father was returned to Washington D.C., and she went to Vassar College, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Then her father was named the American Consul General to Seoul, Korea, and she moved there briefly with her family but returned to Washington to take a political job. Then she returned to Japan and studied art with Shimada Bokusen, a progressive artist, and received numerous awards.
She turned to woodblock printing, hoping to make a living with this, which she did, particularly making sales among diplomatic corps people. Many of her finished prints as well as paintings were destroyed in the Great Kanto earthquake on September 1, 1923. However, she continued to work and did more landscape prints.
As an artist she did oil painting, watercolor, book illustrations, photography, and prints. Her collectors include some of Japan’s most prominent people including Empress Nagako. In America, one of her closest friends and the person who provided her a home in this country was Grace Nicholson, Pasadena art dealer.
Noted for her lack of conventionality, Miller preferred to be called “Jack.” She never married, loved mountain climbing and dressed in masculine style clothes. She supported herself solely through the sale of her art. A bitter point in her life was the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, and she worked in the war effort against the Japanese. She died at age forty seven of abdominal cancer in California, and her prints were donated to Scripps College.
Lilian May Miller was born in Tokyo, Japan on July 20, 1895, the daughter of the U.S. Consul General. Lillian was educated at the American School in Tokyo and at Vassar College.
She began art training at age nine under the court painter to the Emperor and exhibited in the Imperial Salon at age 12. She authored and illustrated a book of poetry entitled, Grass Blades From a Cinnamon Garden. Inspired by her friend Helen Hyde, after 1920 she specialized in making woodblock prints in the Japanese manner which she exhibited in leading cities of the U.S. During the 1930s she lectured on block printing and demonstrated at the California Art Club. Arriving in San Francisco in 1938, she lived there until cancer ended her life on Jan. 11, 1943.
Exh: Tokyo, 1920; Nicholson Gallery (Pasadena), 1930; Gump’s (SF), 1939; De Young Museum, 1954 (solo); Pacific Asia Museum (Pasadena), 1998 (solo).
Works Held: Art Institute of Chicago; Library of Congress; Scripps College; Baltimore Museum; Denver Public Library; British Museum; Smithsonian Inst.; Seattle Art Inst.
Edan Hughes, author of the book “Artists in California, 1786-1940”
American Art Annual 1932; Who’s Who in American Art 1936-41; Who’s Who in California 1942; Death Record; SF Chronicle, 1-13-1943 (obit); American Art Review, Dec. 1998.