Theme/Style – Modernism, landscape, still life
Media – Oils, watercolors, wood sculpture
Artistic Focus – Torajiro Watanabe’s Modernist landscapes and floral still lifes reveal an artist skilled in both color and contour; and in the words of one critic, his work exuded “unlimited integrity.” Information about Watanabe’s life and career after the early 1930s is very scarce, and it is unknown whether he created work after that time, making his extant paintings not only charming, but quite special.
Career Highlights –
- Torajiro Watanabe was born in Fukushima, Japan in 1886, and studied at the Manchu School of Art in Tokyo.
- After immigrating to the U.S., Watanabe studied Fine Art at the University of Denver in Colorado around 1916-1917, and the Art Students League in New York under John French Sloan.
- Beginning around 1918, Watanabe lived and painted for nine years in the art colony at Woodstock, New York and was a member of the Woodstock Artists Association.
- Watanabe had a solo show at the Nippon Club in New York in 1921, garnering favorable reviews from the public and critics alike.
- Watanabe was a member of the Society of Independent Artists and the Salons of America, and in 1922 Watanabe was included in the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, and continued to exhibit with the group through 1927.
- Watanabe moved to Los Angeles in 1927, and became an active member of the art community in the city’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. The center of the city’s Japanese life and culture, the area had become a mecca of art activity, and was the scene of numerous art clubs, including the Chuo Bijutsu Kai Kwan (Japanese Art Club), the Japan-American Society, the Nan-ei Kai (Literary Society) and the Shaku-do-sha (whose members included photographer Edward Weston), as well as the Japanese Camera Club.
- As part of the Little Tokyo milieu, Watanabe and Chiura Obata were two of the many artists who had solo shows at Los Angeles’s Nippon Club, sponsored by the Southern California Japanese Art Club. Watanabe’s solo show with the club took place in 1927, and included a large group of paintings and small wood sculptures.
- Watanabe had a solo show at the Hollywood Public Library in 1927, and at Los Angeles’s Miyako Hotel in 1932, where he again exhibited both paintings and wood sculptures.
- Watanabe also had solo shows at the Pasadena Art Institute in 1928 and the Denver Art Museum in 1933.
- Besides the shows mentioned above, Watanabe was included in group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Salons of America; and at the Los Angeles Museum in 1929 and 1930.
- In 1977, Watanabe was included in the exhibition “Half Century of Japanese Artists in New York, 1910-1950” at the Azuma Gallery in Seattle, Washington.
Selection of Works by this Artist
Bibliographic references are available upon request.