Kenjiro Nomura

Photo: Paul Macapia

Kenjiro Nomura

American (born in Japan), 1896-1956

born Gifuken, Japan 1896
Active Seattle, WA
died Seattle, WA 1956

Born in Japan, Nomura moved to Seattle with his family when he was about 10 years old and lived in the substantial Japanese-American community in Seattle between Second and Twelfth, Yesler and Jackson Streets. He and K. Tokita had a sign painting business, called Noto Signs, near Sixth and Washington and used the shop as a studio after business hours. Essentially a self-taught artist, he began entering NW Annuals in 1922 and in 1932 won a prize for his painting "Street" (SAM 33.225), although a generally known artist at the time. When the SAM opened in June 1933, Normura was given a one-person exhibition as part of the opening celebrations. Kenneth Callahan, who wrote art news for the Town Crier at the time and became Dr. Fuller's major assistant when the museum opened, consistently described Nomura as one of the area's most "progressive" or "modern" artists and called for his wider recognition for his "unprejudiced and unsentimental" city views.

Nomura was one of several Japanese-Americans who were a regular part of the artistic circle, including the Callahans, Graves and Anderson, that met in the Yesler area in the 1930's.

He was interned during WWII. After the war, his paintings in 1947 were street scenes, but by 1952 he had developed a different abstract style. Late in the thirties he had written ("Group of Twelve", 1937) that he had recently realized Japanese influence in his work and was interested in simplicity and in abstract qualities of line and color. This intention is reflected in the later abstract work. He was also a furniture maker and supported himself by a frame business. Receiving the continued encouragement of SAM, he continued to paint and exhibit. (Barbara Johns, June 1984)
  • painting
  • American
  • Seattle, WA
  • Gifuken, Japan

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