Nobue Watanabe


Artist Nobuo Watanabe, whose nostalgic and joyful paintings depicted celebrations of life in small town America, died December 1, 2022. He was 87. Nobuo, known as “Nicky,” died in Palm Springs, CA of respiratory failure. He had been a resident of Riverside County since 2003.


Nicky was born on July 22, 1935 in Okayama, Japan (Soja City). He was the youngest of four children. He completed his education in Japan – 6 years of elementary school, three years of middle school, 3 years of high school, and 4 years of technical and university education in Osaka at the Kansai Gakuin University.


He first came to the United States in 1965 by boat – taking the American President Line-Cleveland from Yokahama to San Francisco. His early career was in the television industry. He pursued further studies at the Motion Picture Producers Association. He became a permanent resident of the United States in 1968 and resided for many years in San Francisco. Mr. Watanabe was a self-taught artist whose style was often categorized as primitive, naïve, or folk-art. He fully committed to painting in 1982 while living in San Francisco. From a first exhibit in Northern California, his popularity quickly grew and exhibits, limited-edition graphic publications, and international recognition followed.


He has been called a master precisionist and an unmatched master of composition. Mr. Watanabe never married. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, and eldest sister. He is survived by his elder sister and extended family in Japan, and by a world filled with friends. He painted not only to capture the joy he saw in life, but to share it.


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