Chiura Obata commenced this painting in 1912 as a portrait of his wife, Haruko, who had announced that she was pregnant with their first child. Obata reworked the painting in 1922, changing the title to Dusk in the High Sierra, and again in 1928, when he chose the final title, Mother Earth. The evolution of the title reveals Obata’s intention to endow his subject with greater resonance. The solitary female figure now serves as a universal personification of nature, fertility and maternity. The contrast between the giant, centuries-old redwood trees and the small seasonal flowers serves as a reminder of the cycles of nature – and of life itself.
Although Obata’s female model is Japanese, his universal title reflects his global perspective regarding nature and nationality: ”Above the border line of nationality everybody must feel a deep appreciation toward Mother Earth”. Obata’s timeless vision reaffirmed viewers’ perennial ties to nature in an increasingly technological age.
Treasures of the de Young
July 7th, 2017