Skip to main content

JANM Permanent Collection Adds Henry Sugimoto Paintings

By November 20, 2015No Comments
Henry Sugimoto Self-Portrait in Camp, 1943

Henry Sugimoto Self-Portrait in Camp, 1943

LOS ANGELES — The Japanese American National Museum has added 240 oil paintings and more than 200 watercolors by artist Henry Sugimoto to its permanent collection, thanks to a donation by the artist’s daughter, Madeleine.

The donation also included diaries, woodblocks and woodblock prints, artist tools and dress designs. These items join numerous other Sugimoto paintings and artifacts that had previously been gifted or loaned to the museum.

JANM’s collection now encompasses more than 700 works of art by Sugimoto, spanning his entire career. This is the largest collection of paintings in the JANM collection.

“The Japanese American National Museum is honored to be the permanent home for Henry Sugimoto’s collection,” said Greg Kimura, president and CEO of JANM. “The collection spans his entire career, from prewar to his incarceration to the postwar era. Henry was a lauded artist before being unjustly locked up with 120,000 other Japanese Americans behind the barbed wire of an American concentration camp. That experience dramatically affected his work. Now JANM will be able to share his art and legacy for generations to come.”

Said Madeleine Sugimoto: “It is important to me that my father’s work be properly cared for and made accessible. I could think of no better place than the Japanese American National Museum to steward the art and artifacts of his career and life.”

The first gift of Sugimoto’s work was made to JANM by Madeleine Sugimoto and Naomi Tagawa in 1992. It consisted primarily of 142 oil paintings. In 2000, Madeleine Sugimoto loaned the museum additional paintings, sketchbooks, woodblock prints, letters and other items. That loan has now been converted to a donation.

In 2001, JANM presented “Henry Sugimoto: Painting an American Experience.” It was the first museum retrospective of the artist’s work and featured more than 100 paintings along with photographs, sketchbooks and other archival materials related to Sugimoto’s life and career.

Prior to World War II, Sugimoto’s career was thriving. Influenced by French Post-Impressionists, he primarily painted landscapes and city scenes. Mexican muralists such as Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera were also among Sugimoto’s influences, as were European and Japanese artists he encountered during a two-year stay in Paris.

But once he was incarcerated in the wake of the bombings of Pearl Harbor, both his style and subject matter were forever altered.

During and following the war, Sugimoto depicted the indignities he and his fellow inmates suffered in a narrative and figurative style that was unique to the artist.

Sugimoto died in 1990 at the age of 90.

The recently acquired items are still in the process of being inventoried, according to the museum. Once that process is completed, qualified scholars will be able to request access to selected items by appointment.