Japanese American National Museum
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Still life

Hibi, Hisako [ bio ]

Still life
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H: 20 in, W: 24 in

Topaz, Utah, 1943


Gift of Ibuki Hibi Lee


Unframed stretched canvas. Image of still life with a fishbowl, vase, cylinder, piece of fruit and cloth. The colors are yellow, green and red

Signed in caps, LL: Hisako Hibi 1943 ; BACK: Still Life Summer 1943 'a sketch' with the reddish clay, earth dirt of Topaz, M. Hibi made these forms and painted with the oil paints. I sketched them.

This painting is significantly different from the other paintings in this collection. Instead of using a light wash of paint and sharp delineations of form, this work exhibits a departure from this technique. Thick patches of paint have been applied to create patterns of color. This still life appears to be inspired heavily by Cubism, a painting style developed in the early twentieth century by European artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Bracque. Besides the manner in which the paint is handled, other elements of the painting mark it as different from Hibi's other work from this period. Although Hibi painted many still life images, this is the only one that does not focus on an arrangement of flowers or vegetables. The geometric shapes which form the background is also unusual for Hibi. The signature, as well, stands out as different because it is much larger than any of her other signatures and is printed, rather than done in cursive. These differences are not fully accounted for in the documentation. There are several possible explanations, the most obvious being that Hisako Hibi was experimenting with composition, style and technique. The inscription on the back also suggests an additional reason for this unique work. The inscription describes it as "a sketch" and notes that "with the reddish clay, earth dirt of Topaz, M. Hibi made these forms and painted with the oil paints. I sketched them." The M. Hibi referred to is Hisako Hibi's husband, George Matsusaburo Hibi, also an artist. However, it is unclear whether Hisako Hibi meant that she made a sketch of these objects, which her husband then painted, or whether she considered this work a painted sketch. Nevertheless, it is an interesting example of the range of styles and techniques that Hisako Hibi was interested in and experimented with at this time.

All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in this collection must be submitted to the Collections Management & Access Unit at the Japanese American National Museum (



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