* 1904 Los Angeles
† 1988 New York
The artist and designer Isamu Noguchi was born in Los Angeles in 1904, the son of the American writer Leonie Gilmour and the Japanese poet Yonejiro Noguchi. Isamu Noguchi spent his early childhood in America but lived from 1907 in Japan until 1918, when he returned alone without his parents to the United States to attend Interlaken College in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. After finishing school in 1922, Isamu Noguchi spent a summer with the sculptor Gutzon Borglum. In autumn 1922, Isamu Noguchi began to study medicine at Columbia University in New York. In 1924 Isamu Noguchi's American mother also returned to the United States and lived in New York, encouraging Isamu Noguchi to attend evening courses in sculpture at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School. Isamu Noguchi soon dropped out of medical studies to become a sculptor. A Guggenheim Scholarship enabled Isamu Noguchi to stay in Paris in 1927, where he was assistant to Constantin Brancusi, whose work he had admired in New York, for half a year. Isamu Noguchi himself had a studio in Montparnasse, where he produced abstract sculpture in wood and stone and painted in gouache. When his Guggenheim Scholarship expired, Isamu Noguchi returned to New York in 1928 and set up a studio there. In the 1940s, Isamu Noguchi produced a number of light sculptures in paper, which he called "Lunar". In 1944 Noguchi turned them into a design for a table lamp, with cherrywood supports and a reinforced shade; Knoll International produced the lamp. In the years that followed, Isamu Noguchi designed a great many pieces of furniture and lamps for both Knoll International and the Herman Miller Company. In 1951 Isamu Noguchi came up with the "Akari" line in paper lamps. While designing it for manufacture, Isamu Noguchi revived the venerable Japanese art of making paper from the bark of the mulberry tree. For thirty-five years, Isamu Noguchi added a new design each year to the "Akari" range. One of Isamu Noguchi's best known designs is his 1945 "Coffee table", featuring a glass top on an organically curvilinear, sculptural wooden foot. In 1937 Isamu Noguchi extended his design activity to include a radio with a Bakelite housing in a form resembling a Japanese warrior's helmet. In 1954 Isamu Noguchi designed a "Rocking stool". When asked about his designs, Isamu Noguchi replied: "Function [...] was just the beginning for me. My aim has always been art, in its interrelationship with life."