John McLaughlin Biography
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Born on May 21 1898 in Sharon, Massachusetts to superior court judge John Dwyer McLaughlin and wife Harriott Attwood McLaughlin, John Dwyer McLaughlin was one of seven children. While growing up, his parents showed an interest in art and fostering John’s interest in Asian art, supplemented by numerous trips to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with its extensive collection of Asian art. His mother’s uncle, Gilbert Attwood, had a large collection of Japanese objects that he received from the many Japanese students he hosted, and these objects were eventually given to McLaughlin’s mother. McLaughlin’s education and exposure to Japanese culture are some of the early influences that began to shape his personal interests and profoundly affected his professional choices later in life.

Following his childhood interest in the art of Asia, McLaughlin was able to travel abroad and provide service to his country, while fostering his language skills and his knowledge in the art, culture, and philosophies of Japan. McLaughlin served in the United States Navy from 1917-1921 during World War I. He married Florence Emerson from Wakefield Massachusetts in 1928 and sold real-estate in Boston and Chicago during the 1930s. Then the couple moved to Japan in 1935 and McLaughlin studied Japanese art and language, which was a rare opportunity for an American during this time.

Upon returning to Boston in 1938, McLaughlin and his wife opened an art gallery called The Tokaido, Inc. Here they sold Japanese prints and imported objects from China and Japan. McLaughlin studied Japanese at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu in 1941 and continued his service to the United States as a language officer translating Japanese for the US Marine Corps until 1942. McLaughlin became involved in intelligence in China, Burma, and India, winning the Bronze Star for meritorious service in 1945.

McLaughlin and his wife moved to Dana Point in Southern California where he became one of the few American abstract artists. He began painting later in his life, not until 1938 as a self-taught artist, never receiving any formal training. His many experiences, working with Japanese and Japanese-Americans, traveling abroad, and viewing Chinese and Japanese works of art, all further developed the philosophy of life that would be the driving force behind his paintings.

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