Artist to Artist

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The work of the artist is often thought of as solitary. We picture the painter confronting a blank canvas alone, studio door figuratively shut. Yet few artists thrive in a social vacuum. Even those who prefer to work in private will seek out other artists for myriad reasons: mentorship and inspiration, practical assistance, a sense of solidarity or shared purpose. Artists are often each other’s first and most important audience, providing vital support before critics, curators, and collectors arrive on a scene. Two artists caring about one another’s work is fundamental to the creation of any art world,” large or small. 


Assembled from the museum's extensive twentieth-century holdings, Artist to Artist features a rotating group of eight pairings. Artists currently featured in the galleries are Kenjiro Nomura and Kamekichi Tokita, George Tooker and Paul Cadmus, Loïs Mailou Jones and Elizabeth Catlett, Frank O'Hara and Grace Hartigan, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Bumpei Usui, Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, Joan Brown and Elmer Bischoff, and Ray Yoshida and Christina Ramberg. Each pairing represents two figures whose trajectories intersected at a creatively crucial moment, whether as student and teacher, professional allies, a couple, or ardently close friends. Based in common goals or shared life experience, the personal interactions represented by these works helped shape and sustain American art.

Within this exhibition is "New on View," an ongoing series of installations that place recently acquired artworks—both gifts and museum purchases—in dialogue with works already in SAAM's collection. 

Melissa Ho, curator of twentieth-century art, organized the exhibition.

Visiting Information

October 1, 2021 May 18, 2025
Open Daily, 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m
Free Admission

Online Gallery

Grace Hartigan, Frank O'Hara, 1926-1966, 1966, oil on linen, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Grace Hartigan, 1967.129
Frank O’Hara, 1926 – 1966
oil on linen
On view
Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Strong Woman and Child, 1925, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.50
Strong Woman and Child
oil on canvas
On view
Thomas Hart Benton, Wheat, 1967, oil on wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James A. Mitchell and museum purchase, 1991.55
oil on wood
On view
Jackson Pollock, Going West, ca. 1934-1935, oil on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Thomas Hart Benton, 1973.149.1
Going West
Dateca. 1934-1935
oil on fiberboard
On view
Joan Brown, Nude, Dog, Clouds, 1963, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Edith S. and Arthur J. Levin, 2005.5.11
Nude, Dog, Clouds
oil on canvas
On view
Elmer Bischoff, Two Bathers, 1960, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1968.52.7
Two Bathers
oil on canvas
On view
Ray Yoshida, Partial Evidences II, 1973, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the S. W. and B. M. Koffler Foundation, 1979.53.34
Partial Evidences II
acrylic on canvas
Not on view
Christina Ramberg, Brunet's Sleeves #1 and #2, 1974, acrylic on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the S. W. and B. M. Koffler Foundation, 1979.53.27
Brunet’s Sleeves #1 and #2
acrylic on fiberboard
Not on view
George Tooker, The Waiting Room, 1959, egg tempera on wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.47.43
The Waiting Room
egg tempera on wood
On view
Paul Cadmus, Night in Bologna, 1958, egg tempera on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.87
Night in Bologna
egg tempera on fiberboard
On view
Loïs Mailou Jones, Les Fétiches, 1938, oil on linen, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Mrs. Norvin H. Green, Dr. R. Harlan, and Francis Musgrave, 1990.56
Les Fétiches
oil on linen
On view
Elizabeth Catlett, Singing Head, 1980, black Mexican marble, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1989.52
Singing Head
black Mexican marble
Not on view
Kamekichi Tokita, Self Portrait, ca. 1935, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Kamekichi and Haruko Tokita family of Seattle, Washington, USA, 2023.11
Self Portrait
Dateca. 1935
oil on canvas
On view
Kenjiro Nomura, The Farm, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.36
The Farm
oil on canvas
On view


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Thomas Hart Benton
born Neosho, MO 1889-died 1975 Kansas City, MO

An American scene painter who, along with John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood, was a leading regionalist painter of the 1930s.

Elmer Bischoff
born Berkeley, CA 1916-died Berkeley, CA 1991
Joan Brown
born San Francisco, CA 1938-died Proddatur, India 1990
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Paul Cadmus
born New York City 1904-died Weston, CT 1999

Cadmus entered the school of the National Academy of Design at fifteen with the encouragement of his parents, both of whom were artists.

Elizabeth Catlett
born Washington, DC 1915-died Cuernavaca, Mexico 2012

Born in Washington, D.C., lives in Mexico. Prizewinning artist, teacher whose prints and sculptures, such as Homage to My Young Black Sisters (1968) and later works, express her concern about social problems.

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Joseph Cornell
born Nyack, NY 1903-died New York City 1972

A premier assemblagist who elevated the box to a major art form, Joseph Cornell also was an accomplished collagist and filmmaker, and one of America's most innovative artists. When his sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. John A.

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Grace Hartigan
born Newark, NJ 1922-died Timonium, MD 2008

Grace Hartigan grew up in New Jersey, where she married the boy next door after graduating from high school. She saw the 1935 film Call of the Wild and decided on a whim to move to Alaska with her new husband.

Hisako Hibi
born Torihama, Fukui Prefecture, Japan 1907-died San Francisco, CA 1991
Matsusaburo George Hibi
born Shiga Prefecture, Japan 1886-died New York City 1947
Loïs Mailou Jones
born Boston, MA 1905-died Washington, DC 1998

Now in her eighth decade as an artist, Lois Mailou Jones has treated an extraordinary range of subjects—from French, Haitian, and New England landscapes to the sources and issues of African-American culture.

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Yasuo Kuniyoshi
born Okayama, Japan 1889-died New York City 1953

Painter and photographer of art. His languid women in repose from the 1930s are significant, but he also painted still lifes and landscapes.

Yayoi Kusama
born Matsumoto, Japan 1929
Miguel Luciano
born San Juan, Puerto Rico 1972

Miguel Luciano's Pure Plantainum (2006) is a precious object. The question is, what makes it so?

Miguel Luciano
born Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 1966
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Jackson Pollock
born Cody, WY 1912-died East Hampton, NY 1956

Perhaps more than any of his contemporaries, Jackson Pollock's work defined America's artistic coming of age. Born in Cody, Wyoming, he first studied art in 1925 in Los Angeles, where he developed an interest in sculpture.

Christina Ramberg
born Fort Campell, KY 1946-died Naperville, IL 1995
Juan Sánchez
born New York City 1954
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George Tooker
born New York City 1920-died Hartland, VT 2011

Painter. He studied with Reginald Marsh and Kenneth Hayes Miller at the Art Students League and later with Paul Cadmus. To achieve his haunting scenes of urban isolation and mechanization, Tooker employs the Renaissance egg termpera technique.

Bumpei Usui
born Nagano, Japan 1898-died New York City 1994
Ray Yoshida
born Kapaa, HI 1930-died Kauai, Hawaii 2009