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  Isamu Noguchi Biography

Isamu Noguchi Biography

born 1904 died 1988

Isamu Noguchi (Noguchi Isamu, November 17, 1904 - December 30, 1988) was a prominent Japanese -American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades, from the 1920s onward.

Known widely for his sculpture and public works, Noguchi also designed stage sets for various Martha Graham productions, and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces, some of which are still manufactured and sold. Among his furniture work was his collaboration with the Herman Miller company in 1948 when he joined with George Nelson and Charles Eames to produce a catalog containing what is often considered to be the most influential body of modern furniture.[citation needed] His work lives on around the world and at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in New York City.

Select Timeline

  • 1904 - November 17 - Isamu Noguchi born in Los Angeles
  • 1912 - Leonie and Isamu move to seaside town of Chigasaki. Sister Ailes born.
  • 1913 - Isamu is semi-apprenticed to the carpenter to help with the project.
  • 1916 - Isamu taken from Japanese school and sent to Saint Joseph's College in Yokohama.
  • 1917 - Moves to Yokohama.
  • 1918 - Isamu sent alone to Rolling Prairie, Indiana to attend the Interlaken School.
  • 1922 - Graduates from La Porte High School as Isamu Gilmour. A summer apprenticeship with sculptor Gutzon Borglum in Connecticut. Fall - moves to New York and enters Columbia University.
  • 1924 - Isamu takes an evening sculpture class at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School. Head of school Onorio Ruotolo is enthusiastic and gives Isamu his first exhibition after 3 months. Leaves Columbia to devote himself to sculpture. Begins using name of Noguchi instead of Gilmour. Sets up first studio at 127 University Place.
  • 1925- to 1926 - Exhibits academic figurative sculpture in salons of the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Creates masks for Michio Ito performance of Yeats's At the Hawk's Well, his first work for the theater.
  • 1927 - Awarded John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for travel to Paris and the East. Socializes within artists' community that includes Alexander Calder, Morris Kantor, and Stuart Davis.
  • 1928 - Works in Paris on abstract sculptures and abstract gouache drawings.
  • 1929 - Establishes studio on top floor of Carnegie Hall. April - has first one-person exhibition at Eugene Schoen Gallery, where exhibits Paris abstractions.
  • 1930 - Exhibits portrait sculpture in New York, and travels with Buckminster Fuller to Cambridge, Mass. and to Chicago on an exhibition-lecture tour.
  • 1931 - March -- arrives in Japan to a difficult reunion with his father. Befriended by his uncle Totaro Takagi. Travels to Kyoto, where first sees Zen gardens and ancient Haniwa sculpture. Works in pottery of Jinmatsu Uno.

Select Exhibitions

Select Works

  • A bridge in Hiroshima's Peace Park
  • Sculpture for First National City Bank Building in Fort Worth, Texas
  • Sunken Garden for Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut
  • Billy Rose Sculpture Garden, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Sunken Garden for Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza in New York, New York
  • Gardens for the IBM headquarters in Armonk, New York
  • Kodomo no Kuni, a children's playground in Yokohama, Japan
  • The "Portal" sculpture located on the east plaza of the Justice Center Complex in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Dodge Fountain and Philip A. Hart Plaza in Detroit, Michigan (created in collaboration with Shoji Sadao)
  • Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida, 1980-1990
  • The sculpture Black Sun in Seattle, Washington's Volunteer Park
  • California Scenario in Costa Mesa, California 1980-1982
  • Bolt of Lightning... in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Landscape of the Cloud in the lobby of 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City
  • Lillie & Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden in Houston, Texas for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Houses some works by Rodin and Matisse.(1986)


  • "The essence of sculpture is for me the perception of space, the continuum of our existence."
  • "The attractions of ceramics lie partly in its contradictions. It is both difficult and easy, with an element beyond our control. It is both extremely fragile and durable. Like 'Sumi' ink painting, it does not lend itself to erasures and indecision. The best is that which is most spontaneous or seemingly so. I have found it a natural medium to work with in Japan, but not so in America. I associate it with the closeness of earth and wood which is for me Japan and not America today."
  • "The art of stone in a Japanese garden is that of placement. Its ideal does not deviate from that of nature. But I am also a sculptor of the West. I place my mark and do not hide."
  • "I had a revelation in 1933 of the earth outdoors as a new way of conceiving sculpture."


  • Isamu Noguchi - by Sam Hunter, Isamu Noguchi, Bryan Ohno Gallery, University of Washington Press (July 2000)
  • Isamu Noguchi: A Sculptor's World - by Isamu Noguchi, R. Buckminster Fuller, Bonnie Rychlak, Steidl Publishing (July 2004)
  • Isamu Noguchi: A Study of Space - by Ana Maria Torres, Monacelli (October 2, 2000)
  • The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey without Borders - by Masayo Duus, Peter Duus, Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (October 16, 2006)

Quick Facts

  • A prominent Japanese -American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades
  • Known widely for his sculpture and public works, Noguchi also designed stage sets for various Martha Graham productions, and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces, some of which are still manufactured and sold.
  • Returned to New York in 1937 and began to turn out portrait busts. After various proposals he was selected for two sculptures. The first of these, a fountain built of automobile parts for the Ford Motor Company's exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair, was thought of poorly by critics and Noguchi alike, but nevertheless introduced him to fountain-construction and magnesite.


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