Matsusaburo Hibi (1886 - 1947)
Oil on canvas
56" x 46"
Signed lower right circa 1928-1930
Provenance: Hisako Hibi, wife of the artist
Born in Japan, Hibi came to Seattle in 1906, where he was employed drawing cartoons for both English and Japanese language newspapers. Moving to San Francisco by 1919, he began attending the California School of Fine Arts, first as a student, then a staff member, until about 1930, when he married Hisako Shimizu. He was a founding member of the East-West Art Society in 1922, which that year exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Art. He also was a member of the San Francisco Art Association and exhibited with them in 1931, at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, in addition to other art groups and shows. In the 1930's the American dream was still alive, and Hibi painted many family scenes, both with people as subjects or with families of wildlife. Favorite animals were lions, wolves and birds. He loved their natural movements, often visiting the zoo to study them. In 1933, he and his wife moved to the Hayward area to buy land and begin their family. Both he and Hisako, also an artist, continued painting until W.W.II began and the family was taken from their home and interned, first at Tanforan, then in Topaz, Utah. Hibi founded the art school there, along with Chiura Obata. He and Hisako both created a large body of paintings depicting life in the concentration camp. Most of their pre-internment art was lost. A quote from Mr. Hibi during this internment......"I am now inside a barbed wire fence but still sticking to art-I seek no dirt of the earth-but the light in the star of the sky." In 1945, following release from internment, the family had nothing left to return to in California, and moved to New York City. He hoped to begin again in the outside, larger art world. After a period of illness, Mr. Hibi passed away in 1947. Matsusaburo was an early member and art organizer, both for Japanese American and ethnically diverse art associations, such as the East-West Art Society. Art schools were not segregated as were most all of the public schools in California. Perhaps that is "the light in the star of the sky." This painting "Wings" mingles both his love of family and love of wildlife in a mythological way. The figures all have wings, the father an eagle and his children having mysterious animal feet. It was exhibited in 1931, at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. In the mid-1990's it was exhibited across America and then internationally, in several Japanese museums. In 2008, it was exhibited at the M.H. deYoung Museum. It is one of the most important examples of historic Asian American art.
Views From Asian California 1920-1965, An Illustrated History (1992) ISBN# 0-9633968-0-3, page 29
Japanese and Japanese American Painters in the United States: A Half Century of Hope and Suffering, 1896-1945 (1995) page 52
Asian/American/Modern Art: Shifting Currents, 1900-1970, University of California Press (2008) ISBN# 978-0-520-25864, page 58
Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970, Stanford University Press (2008) ISBN# 978-0-8047-5752-5, page 239
Exhibition history available
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