Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Fakirs, 1951, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.93
Copied Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Fakirs, 1951, oil on canvas, 50 1432 14 in. (127.782.0 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.93

Artwork Details

Not on view
50 1432 14 in. (127.782.0 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Figure group
  • Figure — head
  • Performing arts — circus — clown
Object Number

Artwork Description

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

Related Books

The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi
Painter, photographer, and printmaker Yasuo Kuniyoshi immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1906 and began a journey through New York City, Europe, and Japan that forged his unique painting style. In The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Tom Wolf charts the artist's life and career through sixty-six of the artist's best paintings and drawings. What emerges is a richly complex portrait of an artist navigating the social, cultural, and political challenges of his adopted homeland.


Media - 1986.6.100 - SAAM-1986.6.100_2 - 135134
Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Sara Roby Foundation Collection
This exhibition presents some of the most treasured paintings and sculpture from SAAM’s permanent collection, including artworks by Will Barnet, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Edward Hopper, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, George Tooker, among others.