Skip to main content

Toshio Asaeda coral reef fishes collection

Identifier: Mss .A83

Scope and Contents

Collection contains 21 paintings of fish painted observed during the 1933 Templeton Crocker Expedition to the Solomon Islands, with the exception of no. 8, which was painted during the 1930-1931 Zane Grey Expedition to the South Pacific. Text on the verso of each painting (not all fishes are identified) from which titles were derived.

All paintings are signed either at lower right or at lower left.

All items except the last two (numbered 23-24) are 26 x 36 cm. The last 2 items are 38 x 56 cm. Paintings no. 7, no. 10, and no. 17 are not in this collection.


  • 1931-1933


Biographical / Historical

Toshio Asaeda, an artist who specialized in taxidermy, painting and photography, was born in Tokyo, Japan. After four years at Tokyo Teachers College, studying Geology, Zoology, Botany and Geography, he emigrated to the United States in April 1923 to attend the University of Chicago. His American education was cut short by an earthquake that rocked Tokyo, cutting off his education funds. In 1924, Mr. Asaeda accepted a job at the James L. Clark Studios in New York. Mr. Asaeda credits Dr. Clark with teaching him the art of taxidermy.

From 1925 to 1927, Mr. Asaeda lived in San Francisco; it was during this time that he began his forty-year relationship with the California Academy of Sciences. His initial post was as an artist for the ichthyology department. He returned to New York in late 1927 to resume his work with Dr. Clark. However, after only two years, in 1930, Mr. Asaeda returned to San Francisco accepting a job with a color photography forerunner, Natural Color Photo Print Studio. A year later, in 1931, Mr. Asaeda took a place on writer Zane Grey’s expedition to the South Pacific. He served as the expedition’s artist and photographer while also collecting specimens for the Academy. Mr. Asaeda spent the spring of 1932 to the fall of 1939 (they were forced to stop by the outbreak of World War II in Europe) sailing all over the Pacific with millionaire yachtsman Charles Templeton Crocker. Two of these expeditions were with the AMNH. He was the primary photographer and artist on the expeditions. Apart from oil paintings of the islands he visited, Mr. Asaeda painted watercolors of marine subjects, corals, birds, insects and plant and landscape studies for three dioramas in the Whitney Pacific Bird Hall. He also collected birds and other specimens. He drew up maps of the islands and made a ten-foot cast of an Easter Island mo'ai, which is currently in the AMNH Pacific Peoples Hall.

In 1940, Mr. Asaeda opened his own photography studio in downtown San Francisco, on Grant Avenue. This was a short-lived business venture as Mr. Asaeda and his wife, Suzuka, were sent to a Japanese Internment Camp in Topaz, Utah in 1942. Here Mr. Asaeda taught adult internees United States geography and stone polishing. After the war and his release from internment, Mr. Asaeda took a job preparing, drawing, and photographing fossils at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. That same year, 1947, he wrote a letter requesting a job at the Academy. In 1949, Mr. Asaeda accepted a position as Assistant Curator in the Department of Exhibits. After sixteen years, Mr. Asaeda retired in 1965 to begin work on his garden. On March 18, 1968, Toshio Asaeda died from a long-standing illness.


21 Paintings : watercolor on heavy paper ; 26 x 36 cm or 38 x 56 cm

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Donated by the artist in 2/6/34, via James Clark and Francesca Lamont.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from Ichthyology Department post 1965, per Art File Cards: Department File 1266, Acc. Ichthyology 32961.

Related Materials

The original artwork documenting the specimens represented in these paintings is held at the California Academy of Sciences. Toshio Asaeda watercolor drawings (MSS-016)

Additional materials created by Toshio Asaeda documenting later Templeton Crocker Expeditions, 1934-37 are held in the Department of Ornithology Archive.

Orn158, Crocker-Pacific Expeditions collection, 1934-1939 2.18 Linear Feet: Field notes, correspondence, photographs and negatives, lists of photographs and negatives, six oversized folders of sketches, drawings, and maps.


Previous IDs of the collection: ICH-32961, Archive Art survey numbers 144-164

Special Collections item is stored in Rare Folio: RF-94-B and RF-103-A

Paintings digitized (2023) and accessible via AMNH Digital Collections.


Iris Lee, based on bibliographic description by Diana Shih.
February 2, 2024
Language of description
Script of description
AMNH NYS Conservation Grant 2006/2007

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420