Katamoto and Japanese Artists in New York in the Early 1930s

By Tsunemoto, Hiroshi | Thomas Wolfe Review, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

Katamoto and Japanese Artists in New York in the Early 1930s


Tsunemoto, Hiroshi, Thomas Wolfe Review


One hundred years ago in Japan, study abroad was limited to an elite few who traveled on Japanese government scholarships or private funds. As to studying art overseas, almost all of the elite Japanese went to Paris to learn Western painting or sculpture. They stayed in Paris for several years and then returned to Japan, where they became Western-style painters or sculptors, or taught at colleges of art.

In those days, few Japanese thought of coming to New York to study art. Most of the Japanese immigrating to the United States were manual laborers. They wanted to make their fortune in the country where they believed "the American Dream" was not a fantasy but a reality. They hoped that, once they accumulated a fortune, they would return to Japan as rich men. Regrettably, however, their high hopes often turned into nightmares in California and other parts of the United States.

Yet some of the Japanese immigrants found that they had artistic talent and went to art schools in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, and New York. Between the two world wars, namely in the period of "the Lost Generation," at one time, in New York City alone, there were some one hundred Japanese who were artists or who were trying to become artists. Incidentally, in Of Time and the River, Thomas Wolfe writes about the multiracial city of New York: "The mongrel compost of a hundred races-the Jews, the Irish, the Italians ... as well as Chinese, Japs, and dapper little Filipinos--a hundred tongues, a thousand tribes ... the great web of America ..." (535-36).

In pre-World War II New York, the Gachoukai was a club or association of Japanese sculptors and painters. Among Japanese artists who lived in in the city while Wolfe was there, the most renowned were Gozo Kawamura, (1) Yasuo Kuniyoshi, (2) and Isamu Noguchi. (3) They were well known in New York in the 1930s when Wolfe wrote the story of Katamoto, (4) a "Microscopic Gentleman from Japan" (You Can't 28).

Gozo Kawamura was born in Nagano in 1884. He did not want to be drafted into the Japanese military, so he came to the United States in 1904. He finally settled down in New York in 1906 and began studying sculpture at the National Academy of Design, graduating in 1909. The next year, he went to Paris. There he met American sculptor Frederic William MacMonnies, who lived in a suburb of Paris at that time, and became his assistant. Kawamura entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1912. In 1916 he left Paris and returned to New York. From then on, with MacMonnies, Kawamura worked on many public monuments. For instance, New York City commissioned MacMonnies to create statues for the Washington Square Arch. MacMonnies and Kawamura worked together on the project, and those statues have been part of the arch since 1918. Then, in 1922, they created Civic Virtue for the New York City Hall. In 1935 Kawamura and James E. Fraser created Justice for the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Kawamura was only 5'2", yet he created these huge public monuments.

Meanwhile, in 1924, Wolfe accepted a teaching position at Washington Square College of New York University. Between 1924 and 1930, he lived near the university campus and Greenwich Village, where he would probably have seen and met Japanese artists staying in and around the Village. Presumably, Wolfe knew of Gozo Kawamura from seeing the public monuments at Washington Square and at City Hall. Or Aline Bernstein, Wolfe's Jewish mistress, may have told him about the Japanese sculptor. In those days, many Jews in New York were kind to young artists, so it is likely that young Japanese artists in the city were assisted in one way or another by Jewish people. For instance, Yasuo Kuniyoshi was married to Catharine Schmitt, a Jewish woman who helped him become a major American painter and a true American artist.

Yasuo Kuniyoshi was born in Okayama in 1889. He came to America in 1906 as a manual laborer with no art training at home and with no intention of becoming a painter. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Katamoto and Japanese Artists in New York in the Early 1930s
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.