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1951 Yasuo Kuniyoshi Born: Okayama, Japan 1889 Died: New York, New York 1953 oil on canvas 50 1/4 x 32 1/4 in. (127.7 x 82.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation 1986.6.93 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

Although labeled an enemy alien by the U.S. government during World War II, Kuniyoshi affirmed his allegiance to his adopted country by contributing propaganda posters to the war effort. But in the early 1950s, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and Senator Joseph McCarthy were investigating citizens they accused of communist sympathies. Kuniyoshi’s disillusionment is apparent in Fakirs. The evil-looking clown who wears a mask and pointed nose trumpets his dominance. Beside him a smaller, sad clown faces the audience/viewer; another, barely visible, peers out from behind a banner.

Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection, 2014


Figure group

Figure - head

Performing arts - circus - clown


paint - oil

fabric - canvas