Artist Interned: A Berkeley Legend Found Beauty in “Enormous Bleakness” of War Camp. Artist Chiura Obata.

During World War II, some of the most important work connected with UC Berkeley was done not in a library, lecture hall, or lab—but from within the barbed-wire confines of internment camps.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942 mandating the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the western United States, one of the lives he upended was that of Cal art professor Chiura Obata. An artist trained in traditional Japanese techniques but enamored of the American landscape, Obata’s paintings, woodblocks, and sketches serve as a powerful visual diary not only of how the experiences looked, but more importantly, how they felt.

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