Born: July 20, 1895, Tokyo, Japan
Died: January 11, 1943, San Francisco, California, United States
Education: Vassar College
Known for: Drawing, Painting, Watercolor painting, Printmaking, Woodblock printing, Poetry
Lived: USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, 46 N Los Robles Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101, USA (34.14675, -118.14101)
Buried: Woodlawn Memorial Park, Colma, San Mateo County, California, USA
Grace Nicholson's Pasadena residence, now the Pacific Asia Museum, was where Lilian May Miller felt most at home—outside Japan. Their friendship enabled Miller to meet and make use of many important art contacts on her American trip and afterwards.
Address: 46 N Los Robles Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101, USA (34.14675, -118.14101)
Type: Museum (open to public)
Phone: +1 626-449-2742
National Register of Historic Places: 77000300, 1977
Built in 1926, Design by Marston, Van Pelt & Maybury
The museum was founded in 1971 by the Pacificulture Foundation, which purchased “The Grace Nicholson Treasure House of Oriental Art” from the City of Pasadena. Grace Nicholson donated the structure to the city for art and cultural purposes in 1943 and was a dealer in Native American and, later, Asian art and antiques. It houses some 15,000 rare and representative examples of art from throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands. In 2013, the museum became part of the University of Southern California. The building is temporarily closed beginning June 27, 2016 until mid-spring 2017 for a seismic retrofit and renovation. The building is designed in the style of a Chinese imperial palace and features a central courtyard with a garden, a small pool, and decorative carvings.
Who: Grace Nicholson (December 31, 1877 – August 31, 1948) and Lilian May Miller (July 20, 1895 - January 11, 1943)
Grace Nicholson was an American art collector and art dealer, specializing in Native American and Chinese handicrafts. She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, daughter of Franklin Nicholson and Rose Dennington Nicholson. Her father was an attorney, and her mother trained as an educator. Rose Nicholson died from complications following Grace's birth; when Grace was a teen, her father also died, and she was sent to live with her paternal grandparents. They both died in 1901, leaving her an inheritance. Nicholson attended Philadelphia High School for Girls, graduating in the class of 1896. She briefly worked as a stenographer after high school. In 1901, using her inheritance, Nicholson moved to California, and soon opened a small shop in Pasadena, selling Native American handicrafts such as baskets and weaving. In 1924, she designed a new building for her collections, which (reflective of changing fashions) had begun to focus on Asian art. The architectural firm of Marston, Van Pelt & Maybury worked with Nicholson to realize her vision. Her design, nicknamed the "Treasure House," borrowed elements from buildings she had seen in China. The building was opened as an art gallery and shop in 1925, although the interior garden courtyard was not completed until 1929. Her building was deeded to the City of Pasadena in 1943, but she continued to live in her private apartment on the second floor until her death from cancer in 1948. Nicholson was an active charter member of the Zonta Club of Pasadena, and hosted meetings at her home, including a 1929 Christmas party attended by Amelia Earhart. She was the art patron of Lilian May Miller. Lilian May Miller was an American painter, woodblock printmaker and poet born in Tokyo, Japan. In the world of art she marked her place with imagery, while she attended presentations in traditional kimonos, and signed her paintings with a monogram. Her father, Ransford Miller, was an American diplomat who had worked for the YMCA in Tokyo from 1890 to 1894. In 1894 Ransford Miller married Lilly Murray, who had arrived in Japan in 1888 and taught English. Lilian had a sister named Harriet, who her father called "Hal"; Lilian was called "Jack". She lived a life of contradictions. Miller wore kimonos when she showed her work - which reflected her east Asian upbringing - but also wore men's clothes. The kimono represented the Japanese traditional culture in which she was raised, but she didn't follow the strict protocols for developing wood block printing, this was something that made her popular with Americans. Her parents were from the United States, but she lived most of her life in Asia. She is assumed to have been a lesbian and once said that she didn't have the ability to make herself fall in love with a man. Her ashes were buried at Woodland Memorial Park (1000 El Camino Real, Colma, CA 94014). Grace Nicholson is buried with her parents at West Laurel Hill Cemetery (215 Belmont Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004).
Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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