Blog / 2014 / A Work’s Genealogy: Milt Kobayashi’s Influence on Nancy Rhodes Harper

September 15, 2014

Most of the time, artists don’t cite their sources. They can have any number of reasons for not giving credit to the artists who inspire them:

  • they want to come across as some original genius
  • they’re afraid to get sued by the artist who influenced them
  • they don’t understand how fascinating it can be for the viewer to understand the lineage of a work
Milt Kobayashi and Nancy Rhodes Harper
Milt Kobayashi Waiting By The Lamp and Nancy Rhodes Harper Green Day Dixie

But not all artists fail to name their teachers. For example, Nancy Rhodes Harper, whose work is on the right in these pairs, makes no bones about being inspired by Milt Kobayashi, whose work is on the left. She says in her bio that the ladies she paints come from her studies with Kobayashi.

Milt Kobayashi and Nancy Rhodes Harper
Milt Kobayashi Comfortable Place and Nancy Rhodes Harper Lounge Legs

And the delightful thing about this situation is that, as far as I can tell from Harper’s website, her admission that she’s imitating another artist’s style has not stopped her from selling her work.

All of which is to say that creatives should maybe consider being a bit more open about their inspirations. I am and I don’t think it’s caused my career to suffer one bit either!


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