The north wind blows through trees, scattering leaves and raising dust.
The pine exists in solitude, its dark green color appearing fresh.
Soaring like a mountain by a deep river valley,
It is in winter that we see its spirit emerge….
—Artist Suzuki Shōnen, inscription for Old Pine painting, Japan, 1900
It is with profound sadness that we share news of the loss of cherished museum volunteer and member Dr. Valdo H. Viglielmo, who passed away on Nov. 14 at the age of 89.
A distinguished scholar and translator, Dr. Viglielmo developed a love for Japanese culture while serving as an interpreter in postwar Tokyo. In 1946, he entered Harvard University, and went on to continue his studies in Japan while completing his dissertation on Natsume Sōseki, one of Japan’s most celebrated authors. He translated Meian (Light and Darkness), Sōseki’s final work, into English in 1971. After teaching at Harvard and Princeton, Dr. Viglielmo moved to Honolulu to teach Japanese literature at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where he would continue to impassion, enrich, and shape student lives for 37 years.
Dr. Viglielmo was also a human-rights advocate, philosopher, and peace activist who (along with his beloved wife, Frances) was awarded a Peace Prize in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1998. He counted amongst his many friends the authors Kenzaburo Oe and Mishima Yukio, as well as Dr. Edward Seidensticker, the eminent scholar best known for his elegant translation of the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji.
In 2003, Dr. Viglielmo became a volunteer in the museum’s Asian Art Department. During his ten years of service, he spent hundreds of hours assisting with translations from Japanese to English, proofing text, and offering editorial advice for publications such as Masterpieces of Chinese Lacquer from the Mike Healy Collection, Literati Modern, and Masterpieces of Landscape Painting from the Forbidden City. He volunteered faithfully on a weekly basis, enjoying a standing lunch reservation in the Museum Café.
As a lifelong educator and champion for cultural diversity and justice, Dr. Viglielmo identified strongly with founder Anna Rice Cooke’s philosophy behind establishing the Honolulu Museum of Art for the children of Hawai‘i. He often noted that the museum was an “oasis of tranquility and culture amongst the bustle of modern life,” and that he found tremendous pleasure in helping the museum present information on its collections, particularly the Japanese prints and paintings, to the public.
He shall be greatly missed.
Suzuki Shōnen (1848–1918)
Japan, Meiji period (1868–1912) c.1900
Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color & gold on paper
Gift of Terry Welch, in honor of Stephen Little, 2005