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Monday, October 20, 2014

Isamu Noguchi

I started this blog September 6, 2010. Some of you have been readers since the beginning. Others have come on board later. From now through the end of the month, I'm going to be on a short blogging break. Not only am I in the middle of a big volunteer project, I'm also trying to help get the new store open, so I've decided share some of my favorite posts from the past four years. I'll throw in a few new photos for you longtime supporters who read the posts when they were first published.

(First posted 9/23/2010)

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was born in Los Angeles, the son of an Irish-American mother and a Japanese father.  He spent his childhood in Japan and his adolescence and adulthood in the United States, and for the rest of his life, he was at home in both places.

Noguchi moved to New York to become a pre-med student at Columbia University, where he also enrolled in a sculpture class.  Art won out, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1927 led to an apprenticeship in the studio of Constantin Brancusi.  When he returned to New York, associations with technological visionary Buckminster Fuller and choreographer Martha Graham allowed him to explore new facets of his talent.

His first widely distributed design was the Radio Nurse of 1937, and the later Guardian Ear, an object containing a microphone, would pick up sounds from a child’s room.  In 1944 he revised a design he had created to illustrate the George Nelson article “How to Make a Table.” The biomorphic coffee table was put into production in 1947 by Herman Miller and became one of his best-known works.

His famous three-legged cylinder lamp was first made as a gift for his sister in 1944 or 1945.  He began designing his beautiful Akari lamps in 1951, which are still manufactured in Gifu, Japan, by the same company that began producing them in the early 1950s.  His wire and wood rocking stools were designed in 1953, and in 1957 Hans Knoll enlarged the small stool to the full-size Cyclone Table as a companion piece to Harry Bertoia’s wire chairs.

From the Fifties on, Noguchi’s focus was on what he called “the sculpture of spaces,” and he designed gardens, playgrounds and plazas.

From the essay “Isamu Noguchi: Art Into Life” by Bruce Altshuler on
Photos from

Isamu Noguchi, 1951

Bakelite Radio Nurse, 1937
Manufactured by the Zenith Radio Company

Cloud sofa and ottoman, c. 1948
Manufactured by Herman Miller

Custom beech table for William A. M. Burden, 1948

Rocking Stools, 1955
Manufactured by Knoll

Coffee table, 1944
Manufactured by Herman Miller

Cyclone table, 1957
Manufactured by Knoll

Akari floor lamps, 1950s
Manufactured in Gifu, Japan

My favorite photo of Noguchi


As a sidenote, our Noguchi rocking stool will be included in the Wright auction to be held October 23. Remember how it looked when we got it?

Our Noguchi rocking stool (before)

Now here it is in the Wright catalog, all clean and shiny and ready for a new home. Wish us luck!


  1. You have chosen a favourite! I'm so excited to see the new shop, when it opens and your 'big project' sounds important? Education sector I assume? I wish you all well and see you when your back! x

    1. Yes, the project is for the school district, and I'm volunteering my time, since it's for the department my daughter heads.

  2. On Antique Roadshow last night a women holds up a Noguchi table lamp with a wood base a cylindrical fiberglass shade, I almost fell out of my chair when I saw it. She said it turned out to be worth 10,000 dollars.

  3. Mr. Nogushi is one of my favorite designers! Last year I saw an article in the Schöner Wohnen about his daughter and the wonderful house of her father! Wish you all the best for your project and the shop! Greetings from Ria

    1. I'd love to see that article. I just read a very interesting article about his longtime love affair with Priscilla Morgan.