Henry K. Fukuhara


Name Henry K. Fukuhara
Born April 25 1913
Died January 31 2010
Birth Location Fruitland, California
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Henry Fukuhara (1913–2010) was an American watercolorist known for energetic, abstract paintings, particularly of Manzanar and Santa Monica, where he grew up. Although he is primarily known for his watercolors, Fukuhara also painted with acrylics and has created mixed-media collages. He was born in Fruitland, California, located in Humboldt County, on April 25, 1913, and was one of ten children of Japanese immigrants, Ichisuke and Ume Fukuhara, and grew up near Santa Monica in Southern California. While attending Santa Monica High School, Fukuhara's artistic ability was noted by his art teacher, who encouraged him to pursue a career in painting. Following graduation, he enrolled at the Otis Art Institute, although his formal art schooling would only last for two months, when financial hardships brought on by the Depression forced him to quit school and find work to help support the family.

Despite the setback in his educational goals, Fukuhara persevered with his art and by the time he was twenty years old, he had a portfolio of linoleum block prints, four of which were published in the Automobile Club of Southern California's June 1936 edition of Westways magazine. That same year, he exhibited the prints at the Los Angeles Public Library, the Santa Monica Public Library, and the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art (which eventually became the Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Arthur Millier of the Los Angeles Times favorably reviewed Fukuhara's prints, saying they "have a classical feel, real character and poetry."[1]

Fukuhara's fledgling art career was abruptly cut short by World War II and Executive Order 9066, which ordered Fukuhara, his wife, daughter, and extended family into an American concentration camp at Manzanar. Envisioning a series of sketches documenting life in the American concentration camps, Fukuhara was granted permission from the War Relocation Authority to visit the Topaz, Rohwer, and Jerome camps to make pencil drawings, which resulted in a portfolio of over fifty sketches when combined with the drawings he had made of Manzanar while living there.[2] A booklet of the drawings was published in 1944 and offered for sale in the camps. In 1943, he left camp on temporary leave to harvest sugar beets in Idaho, and successfully moved his family in Deer Park, on Long Island, New York, to start a new life. On the East Coast Henry joined his father and brother in establishing a wholesale floral business that prospered in Deer Park for forty years. Unfortunately, the demands of the business kept him from making art, and he wasn't able to return to his painting, drawing, or printmaking until the 1970s.

While recuperating from an operation in 1972, Fukuhara resumed painting and began attending classes and workshops. In 1987, Fukuhara retired from the nursery and returned to Santa Monica, where he was finally able to devote the time to painting and teaching. In 1998, Fukuhara organized a group of twenty-five artists to travel to Manzanar, where he held the first of what became an annual "paint out" watercolor workshop to create artwork from the ruins of the camp and surrounding desert mountainscapes. His paintings are found in the permanent collections at the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, New York, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the San Bernadino County Museum of Art in Redlands, California.

Fukuhara died of natural causes at a nursing home in Yorba Linda, California, on January 31, 2010, at the age of 96.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

California's Gold with Huell Howser: Songbird of Manzanar. Written and produced by Huell Howser. 25 minutes. Huell Howser Productions, 2005.

Henry Fukuhara Manzanar Workshop Application (now organized by artist Al Setton).

Inventory for the Henry Fukuhara Paint Out Collection, 1992-2001. California State University, Dominguez Hills.

James, Charles. "Fueling the Art of Fukuhara," The Sheet, June 17, 2013.

Muranaka, Gwen. "Henry Fukuhara, 96; Manzanar Watercolorist." Rafu Shimpo, February 4, 2010.

Woo, Elaine. "Henry Fukuhara Dies at 96; Watercolorist Led Annual Painting Workshops at Manzanar." Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2010.

Footnotes

  1. Gordon H. Chang, Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors, Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (Stanford University Press, 2008), 316.
  2. Chang, et al., Asian American Art, 316.