Kamesuke Hiraga, Japanese (1889 - 1971)

Kamesuke Hiraga

Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1889. Hiraga arrived in post-earthquake San Francisco in 1907 and studied at the Institute of Art for five years. He then moved to Los Angeles. While a resident there, he won the Julian prize in 1914 to study in Paris, and went again in 1925 to study painting under Lucien Simon. He was active in Los Angeles into the 1930s.

Breaking away from traditional Japanese printmaking form, Kamesuke Hiraga was just a teenager when he left Shima to study painting at the San Francisco Art College in 1906. Later moving to Paris, Hiraga studied printmaking at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where, in 1915, he became the first Japanese student to win the Grand Prize.

Spending much of his life in both Europe and America, Hiraga made use of his undeniable talent for painting and printmaking to demonstrate his fascination with the people and the landscapes of his travels. Yet, despite his foreign training, there is something of his own rich heritage of printmaking that shines through in Hiraga’s unique approach to soft ground etching.

Exh: Pasadena Paris Salon, 1925; Society of Artists, 1931; Pasadena Art Inst., 1931.

He died in Hamajima, Japan in 1971.

Combinations of mastery and personal style are what make certain artists highly collectable long after their time. Still popular in France, Hiraga’s work hangs in the famous Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. Not forgotten at home, his work is featured in the Bridgestone Museum of Art, Japan. And, as recently as 2006, to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Kamesuke Hiraga’s journey to America, his paintings and prints were displayed at a special exhibition at Jingu Chokokan Museum, Ise.

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