Noguchi’s Missing Link

by articulatenyc

In an elegant and gestural ink-on-paper drawing by Isamu Noguchi, a statuesque, standing nude holds her baby in her arms. The two are interlocked so intimately that the child looks as though it’s a part of the mother, joined to her the way a blossom is affixed to a tree branch. Titled Mother and Child, the piece is one of more than 100 drawings and scrolls the artist created while on a 1930 visit to Beijing.

During that six-month trip, the Japanese-born artist was introduced to famed Chinese poet, seal carver, and ink painter Qi Baishi. Noguchi, then only 26 years old, observed the older master in his studio and became inspired by his heavy brushstrokes and use of simplified, biomorphic forms. Noguchi merged Qi’s ink-wash techniques with his own skills as a figure painter. The resulting collection of drawings is known as the “Peking Scrolls.”

For many years, the series was thought of as a peculiarity in the artist’s output. But an exhibition at the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York, sheds new light on the drawings and their significance on Noguchi’s later abstract sculptures. Titled “Isamu Noguchi / Qi Baishi / Beijing 1930,” the show presents, for the first time, a collection of “Peking Scrolls” alongside works by Qi Baishi, as well as several drawings, sculptures, and photographs. Together, these objects demonstrate the evolution of Noguchi’s artistic style. See the full story on!