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The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi

1st floor West, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)
April 3, 2015 – August 30, 2015

Image for The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Strong Woman and Child, 1925, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is organizing a major exhibition about Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1889-1953), one of the finest early American modernists. Kuniyoshi’s career and art evolved from innocence and early success to complexity and disillusionment. Born in Japan in 1889, Kuniyoshi came to the United States as a teenager and studied art in New York. He came into prominence during the 1920s through his distinctive modern figural style, original subjects, and humor. His work became more sensuous and worldly after two long stays in Paris, as he painted moody, reflective women and still lifes with unusual objects.

Kuniyoshi was thoroughly integrated into American life and the art world, but immigration law prevented him from becoming an American citizen. Classified an “enemy alien” after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he remained steadfastly on the side of his adopted country during the painful war years, working with the Office of War Information to create artworks indicting Japanese atrocities. After the war, Kuniyoshi developed a compelling late style, with bitter subjects and paradoxically bright colors.

The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi will be a highly selective survey of nearly seventy of the artist’s best paintings and drawings, chosen from leading public and private collections in America and Japan. It will be the first overview of Kuniyoshi’s work in more than twenty-five years. The guest curator is the leading Kuniyoshi scholar Tom Wolf, professor of art history at Bard College. Joann Moser, deputy chief curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is co-curator. A catalogue, written by Wolf, will accompany the exhibition.


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The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. provided leadership support for the exhibition. We are especially grateful to Mr. Soichiro Fukutake for his major support of the book and exhibition, for his generosity in lending artworks from the Fukutake Collection in Okayama, and for his long advocacy for this artist. Additional generous contributions have been provided by: All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd., E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Fukutake Foundation, Raymond J. and Margaret Horowitz Endowment, Japan-United States Friendship Commission, Peter and Paula Lunder, Friends of Franklin Riehlman, Sara Roby Foundation, Share Fund, and Yasuda Fine Arts Inc.