Isamu Noguchi (1904 – 1988) was a sculptor, architect, craftsman and designer. He was born in Los Angeles to Yone Noguchi, a Japanese poet and Leonie Gilmour, an American poet and writer. In 1906, his mother took him to Japan to be near his father. Noguchi spent most of his childhood in Japan where he developed an appreciation for its landscape, architecture, and craftsmanship. While in Japan, he became an apprentice with a traditional Japanese carpenter.
Noguchi returned to the United States in 1918 for schooling. He later enrolled in Columbia University to study medicine, while at the same time taking sculpture classes at Leonardo da Vinci Art School. It did not take too long for Noguchi to realize his true calling was art, not medicine. He left Columbia to pursue sculpture full time. In 1927, Noguchi left for Paris on a Guggenheim Memorial Fund Fellowship and worked with a sculptor, Constantin Brancusi. He then traveled through Europe and Asia and finally returned to New York City in 1929. In New York, Noguchi earned recognition with his portrait sculpture. Noguchi’s artistic career spanned from then to next 60 decades. He was known for his sculpture, public works, stage set designs, furniture, and light fixtures.
For mid century modern design enthusiasts like us, Noguchi is most well known for his furniture and interior designs. Noguchi designed his first table in 1939, a commission for A. Conger Goodyear, the president of the Museum of Modern Art. This glass top table with rosewood supports was the first of a series of related designs. His revised table design was used to illustrate George Nelson’s article entitled “How to Make a Table.” The table was put in production by Herman Miller between 1947 and 1973. This “Isamu Noguchi Coffee Table” became one of his most well known works and was reissued by Herman Miller in 1984. In addition to the famous coffee table, Noguchi designed other furniture pieces and light fixtures such as Cyclone Tables, Rocking Stools, Cylinder Lamp, a series of Akari lamps etc.
Today, Noguchi’s notable works are seen in many parts of the world and at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City in New York and the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan in Mure, Japan.