Henry Fukuhara (April 25, 1913 – January 31, 2010) was a Japanese American abstract watercolor artist. He is best know for his watercolor paintings of Santa Monica, CA. and Manzanar, a World War II era Japanese American concentration camp where he and his family were imprisoned in 1942 and 1943. He began painting in his later life and quickly became a teacher and mentor to many modern artists and continues to influence watercolor artists today. Fukuhara has permanent collections at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Bernardino Museum of Art, and the Japanese American Museum of Art. He was also a member of the National Watercolor Society.
Fukuhara was born in Fruitland, California but grew up in Santa Monica. He attended Santa Monica High School where he first became aware of his artistic talents. After he graduated from high school he enrolled in Otis College of Art and Design, but was soon forced to drop out in order to help his family through the depression era. Aside from a few art shows in the 1930’s, Fukuhara did not pursue any sort of career in art. After the U.S. was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, Fukuhara and his family, like many other Japanese Americans, were forced into concentration camps. They arrived at Manzanar, in the California Owens Valley, in April of 1942. Fukuhara lived in a one room home with his wife, daughter, parents, and brother and sister-in-law. While at Manzanar, he worked in the drafting department as a grave surveyor. During this time art was a way for him pass the time. The family left Manzanar in 1943 when they agreed to leave the west coast. They soon settled in Long Island, New York, where they started a retail and wholesale flower growing business. Art was put on the backburner while the Fukuhara’s raised their family. Years later, with his children grown, Fukuhara took to painting.
It was during the 1970’s that Fukuhara began to study painting with a real focus. He attended workshops and studied with many prominent artists such as Edgar Whitney, Robert E. Wood, Rex Brandt, George Post, and Carl Molno. In 1987 Fukuhara moved back to his home town of Santa Monica CA. when he inherited his childhood home. He has gotten tremendous praise for his watercolors of Santa Monica which he created during this time. He also studied and taught art at Emeritus College in Santa Monica, a section of Santa Monica College dedicated to serving the older adult community.
Perhaps Fukuhara is most well know for his paintings of Manzanar and the “paint outs”, or workshops, he organized at the site of the concentration camp and its surrounding areas of Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, Independence, Keeler, and Mt. Whitney. The first Manzanar workshop took place in 1998 as a fundraiser to preserve the Manzanar site and he continued them yearly to help raise awareness about the concentration camps. Manzanar was not the only site for the “paint-outs,” others took place in Torrance and San Pedro, California and various other California areas. He went blind from glaucoma but continued to paint with the help of his friends who would visit him regularly. Fukuhara died in a nursing home in Orange County CA. in early 2010. Even after his death the Manzanar workshops continue with the help of his friend and fellow artist Al Setton
From the guide to the Fukuhara (Henry) Paint Out Collection, 1992-2011, (California State University, Dominguez Hills Archives and Special Collections)
- Watercolor painting
- Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945--Pictorial works
- Watercolor Painters
- Manzanar War Relocation Center--1940-1950
- Japanese American Painters
- Manzanar War Relocation Center
- Watercolor painting, American
- Japanese Americans
- Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945
- Watercolor Painting, Abstract
- San Pedro (Los Angeles, California) (as recorded)
- Torrance (Calif.) (as recorded)
- Independence (Calif.) (as recorded)
- Lone Pine (Calif.) (as recorded)
- Manzanar (Calif.) (as recorded)
- Alabama Hills (Calif.) (as recorded)