National Museum of Women in the Arts
Bertha Lum
May 05 1869 - February 1954
Photograph of Bertha Lum, unknown date, unknown photographer, courtesy of Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
BUHR-thah luhm
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Etcher, Illustrator, Painter, Printmaker
Artist's Biography:
Lum was born Bertha Boyton Bull in Tipton, Iowa. She attended the School of The Art Institute of Chicago from 1895 to 1896 and again from 1901 to 1902 where she took courses in figure drawing, design, illustration, and stained-glass technique.

Like many other Westerners, by the late 1890s, Lum became fascinated by Japanese color woodcuts. Her interest was so strong that she and Bert F. Lum (a corporate lawyer from Minneapolis whom she married in 1903) took their honeymoon in Japan, where she sought out tools, artists, and information about traditional printmaking practices. The couple’s children were born in 1908 and 1911, and the family moved to California in 1917. Lum eventually divorced her husband, and she and her children took extended trips to Japan and China.

Although Lum’s art features both the subject matter and the flattened-out, decorative quality of traditional Asian prints, it has its own distinctive style and was immediately popular with critics and collectors both East and West. In 1912, Lum was the only foreign artist to show her woodcuts at Tokyo’s Tenth Annual Art Exhibition. She was the first American woman artist to have her work acquired by the British Museum and was one of four silver medal-winners at the prestigious Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915.

Lum wrote and illustrated two books and created illustrations for books and articles by both of her daughters. She returned to Peking after World War II, but because of failing health, moved five years later to her younger daughter’s home in Genoa Italy, where she died at the age of seventy-five.

Other Occupation(s):
Author, Teacher
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Private lessons, Japan (1907) School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1895-1896, 1901-1902)
Related Visual Artists:
student of Frank Holme student of Anna Weston student of Bonkotsu Igami student of Nishimura Kamakichi influenced by Lafcadio Hearn
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Silver Medal, The Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, CA, USA (1915)
Earliest exhibition:
Tenth Annual Art Exhibition, Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan (1912)
NMWA exhibition(s):
The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy
Artists on the Road: Travel as Source of Inspiration
Artist retrospective(s):
Related places
Genoa (died at)
May Night, 1913