Kenjiro Nomura, American Modernist: An Issei Artist’s Journey

October 21, 2021 – February 20, 2022

This is the first solo exhibition of the work of Kenjiro Nomura (1896-1956) since the posthumous tribute at the Seattle Art Museum in 1960.

It is the culminating study in a series of related works by art historian Barbara Johns, PhD. These include The Hope of Another Spring: Takuichi Fujii, Artist and Wartime Witness, and Signs of Home: The Paintings and Wartime Diary of Kamekichi Tokita (both UW Press, 2017 and 2011).

Kenjiro Nomura (1896-1956) was born in Japan and came to the United States with his parents at the age of ten. On his own by sixteen, painting became a constant throughout his life as he experienced not only major artistic recognition but also business success and failure, racism and wartime incarceration, and, at last, American citizenship. The peak of his artistic success was the 1930s, when his paintings represented the Northwest in New York, Washington, DC, and the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. Incarcerated during World War II along with 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast, he continued to paint, leaving a record of his experience in more than one hundred paintings and drawings. Despite crippling challenges after the war, he resumed painting, developed a new artistic style, and once again gained recognition—the only one of his prewar colleagues to do so. He fulfilled a long-held goal to become a citizen after a federal law barring citizenship to Asian immigrants was voided.

In this deeply researched account, Johns writes about Nomura’s life and artistic achievement in the historical and social context of the time.

David F. Martin, curator of Cascadia Art Museum, contributed an essay that contextualizes Nomura’s artistic influences and activities in the Northwest.

Martin has pioneered the study of Issei artists in the Northwest and has written several groundbreaking publications on the subject and has lectured internationally.

The exhibition is accompanied by the book, Kenjiro Nomura, American Modernist: An Issei Artist’s Journey, published by Cascadia Art Museum and distributed by the University of Washington Press.

Thank you to our exhibition sponsors:








Funded in part by the City of Edmonds Arts Commission.