Chiura Obata (1885–1975) ranks among the most significant California-based artists and Japanese American cultural leaders of the last century. Born in Okayama, Japan, Obata immigrated to San Francisco in 1903. By then, he was integrating Western practices into his art-making, and continued experimenting with new styles and methods throughout his seven-decade career. Today Obata is best known for majestic views of the American West, sketches based on hiking trips to capture what he called "Great Nature." Every work is grounded in close observation, rendered with calligraphic brushstrokes and washes of color. Teaching and community engagement are Obata's second legacy for American art. As a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and a founder of the East West Art Society, a Bay Area artists' collective, he facilitated cross-cultural dialogue, despite widespread prejudice against Asian Americans. In 1942, when World War II fears and Executive Order 9066 forced Obata and more than one hundred thousand West Coast Japanese Americans into incarceration camps scattered across the western United States, he created art schools in the camps to help fellow prisoners cope with their displacement and loss. After the war, Obata returned to his callings as a painter, teacher, and cultural ambassador with scars that brought new emotional force to his work. The works in this retrospective take us on an epic journey in which peaks, valleys, storms, and sunlight may reflect universal challenges to becoming a successful artist as well as the particular struggles and dreams of America's minority and immigrant communities. Chiura Obata: American Modern presents more than 150 paintings and personal effects, many on public display for the first time in this tour. The works on view come primarily from private collections, supplemented by a selection of superb woodblock prints from SAAM's collection. ShiPu Wang, professor of art history at the University of California, Merced, is the guest curator for the exhibition; Crawford Alexander Mann III, SAAM's curator of prints and drawings, is coordinating its presentation in Washington, DC. The exhibition's presentation at SAAM is the final stop of a five-museum tour and the only venue east of the Rocky Mountains. It was previously on view in Santa Barbara, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and Okayama, Japan.