Takuma Kajiwara

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Takuma Kajiwara (seated) and Frederick Oakes Sylvester in Elsah, Illinois

Takuma Kajiwara (梶原 琢磨, Kajiwara Takuma, November 15, 1876 – March 11, 1960) was a widely known American artist of Japanese birth[1] who was called one of the seven greatest photographers in the United States.[2][3][4][5]


Kajiwara was born on November 15, 1876, in Fukuoka, Japan, to a Samurai family of artists and art lovers.[1][4] He was the third of five brothers.[6][7] One of them, Kango, was a court painter.[8][9]

Takuma came to St. Louis in 1905, "lured to the city partly by an offer of employment in a studio and even more by a desire to see the Mississippi River," according to his obituary in the St. Louis Star-Times.[2] He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in New York City on March 11, 1960.[1]

While in St. Louis he lived at the Warwick Hotel.[10]

When he was in his late 20s, he played billiards and was described by a sports reporter then as being "small, slight and supple." He used a cue stick presented to him by Willie Hoppe, the billiards master.[11] Later in life, for recreation, he enjoyed golf.[2]

He was a naturalized citizen of the United States.[8]

Kajiwara was married on June 6, 1936, in Queens, New York, to Fern Horton Searls of Wisconsin, who had been employed as a social service worker at the Washington University clinic.[5][12] They were wed in the home of Paul F. Berdanier, a former St. Louis artist.[13] In 1938, the Kajiwaras went to Japan and stayed a year.[6][14]

In his obituaries, his wife was identified as Makota or Makoto Kajiwara. He was also survived by two brothers who lived in Japan.[1][8]

Fern Searls was born on July 30, 1893, and died in New York City at the age of 61 on July 13, 1955.[14][15][16]

Kajiwara and artist Frederick Oakes Sylvester were friends. According to one account, their amity was "warm enough to cause them to cut wrists and mingle blood in a gesture of unity." Kajiwara did photographic work for The Great River, a book by Sylvester collecting his paintings of the Mississippi. Photos show the men painting together.[17]


St. Louis[edit]

Kajiwara worked in a photographers' studio in Seattle, Washington, then went back to Japan, where, at the request of the government, he spent several months organizing photography clubs. He then returned to the United States, moving to St. Louis at the behest of a company that made photographic plates and wanted him to take charge of its studio at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.[1] He opened his own studio shortly thereafter and moved it to the Century Building in 1914. He painted or wrote philosophical essays in his spare time.[2][3][8]

Portrait photography should have dignity. It is not like selling neckties.

— Kajiwara, 1936.[2]

In his paintings, he combined Oriental and American techniques.[8][18] Kajiwara was especially talented for photographing women, being quoted at one time by fellow photographer Albert H. Strebler as often telling them "I will make you look like a glamor queen."[19]

He was known as one of the two best portraitists of his day in St. Louis, the other being Julius Caesar Strauss.[19]

New York City[edit]

Kajiwara left St. Louis in February 1936, telling reporters that the Great Depression had made earning a living through photography and painting too difficult for him.[2] He also said that portrait photography in St. Louis had "become more commercialized, more a matter of high-pressure salesmanship." He said that portrait photography should have more dignity attached to it" and that such a "speculative business is not in my line."[10] He said the Midwest was "barren soil for the artist" and that the centers of painting were in the East.[2] He opened a studio in New York City,[13] where he lived at 58 West 57th Street in Manhattan.[8]

After his departure from St. Louis, his studio was to continue in his name, being run by Oswald Moeller, his assistant, and Myrtle Bone, his secretary.[3][10]


Notable people photographed by Takuma Kajiwara[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Takuma Kajiwara, Artist, Dies at 83", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 13, 1960, page 17A
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "St. Louis Losing Kajiwara Because He Finds After 31 Years It Is Poor Soil for His Art," St. Louis Star-Times, February 7, 1906, page 1
  3. ^ a b c "Kajiwara, Noted Photographer, to Leave St. Louis," St. Louis Star-Times, February 6, 1936, page 3
  4. ^ a b Virginia Irwin,"An Artist's Farewell to St. Louis," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 12, 1936, page 3D (with photographs)
  5. ^ a b "Kajiwara Weds Former St. Louis Welfare Worker," St. Louis Star-Times, June 11, 1936, page 1
  6. ^ a b John Gardner, "Noted Japanese-American Artist Visits Here", Tampa Bay Times, March 18, 1951, page 75 (with self-portrait and photograph of Fern Searls Kajiwara)
  7. ^ "Index to Petitions for Naturalization Filed in New York City, No. 7181920," cited by Douglas of Sweden in PentaxForums.com, November 10, 2011
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Kajiwara Dead; Painter Was 83". The New York Times. March 12, 1960. p. 2.
  9. ^ [1] According to the Asahi Optical Historical Club, Kajiwara was a relative of Kumao Kajiwara, the founder of the Asahi Company and Saburo Matsumoto, the company's president. The firm's Takumar lens is reported to have been named after him.
  10. ^ a b c "Kajiwara to Leave St. Louis and Go East," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 6, 1936, page 8
  11. ^ "Jap Gentlemen Play Billiards," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 27, 1905
  12. ^ New York City Marriage Certificate Index, 1866-1937, Ancestry.com
  13. ^ a b "Kajiwara Marries Miss Fern Searls," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 12, 1936, page 6A
  14. ^ a b Passenger Lists, New York, 1897-1957
  15. ^ Social Security Applications and Claims Index
  16. ^ New York City Death Index
  17. ^ Williams, Paul O. (1986). Frederick Oakes Sylvester: the artist's encounter with Elsah. Historic Elsah Foundation. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  18. ^ United Press International, "The Grim Reaper," The Daily Courier, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, March 15, 1960, page 4
  19. ^ a b Dick Norrish, "Lifetime of Making Pictures Continues," Edwardsville (Illinois) Intelligencer, June 9, 1975, page 3
  20. ^ "Takuma Kajiwara Wins Top Prize in Art Exhibition," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 24, 1951, page 5A
  21. ^ "Artist Dies," Associated Press, The Salina Journal, Salina, Kansas, March 13, 1960, page 22
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Mrs. Charles P. (Anne André) Johnson, Notable Women of St. Louis, 1914
  23. ^ "Civic League Broadens Work, Says New Sec'y, The St. Louis Star, July 24, 1910, image 1
  24. ^ Library of Congress
  25. ^ St. Louis Star and Times, 21 November 1911, page 5
  26. ^ Shadowlands Newspaper Archive
  27. ^ Cowan's: A Hindman Company; Mike Butler Collection of Western Photography
  28. ^ Paul O. Williams, Frederick Oakes Sylvester: The Artist's Encounter With Elsah, page vi
  29. ^ [2]Marguerite Martyn, "St. Louis Women Who Have Made a Notable Success in Business — 12," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 24, 1917, image 25

Further reading[edit]