Early Work 1918 — 1938

Online Gallery of The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi

An ink drawing of a plate with leftover food.

Remains of Lunch, 1922, Pen and ink, brush and ink on paper, 13 ⅞ x 10 ½ in. (35.2 x 26.7 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2003.18

Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s inventive, humorous early works often included subtle color harmonies, simplified shapes, oddly proportioned figures and an eccentric handling of space and scale. 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.

About this Work

Kuniyoshi’s early drawings were often humorous, and his keen wit and interest in visual and verbal puns are evident in Remains of Lunch. This drawing unpretentiously displays the remnants of a light meal, with a demitasse spoon, cigarette butt, dollops of pear sauce, and a fluted, paper pastry cup. The artist’s widow noted that Kuniyoshi loved pears and pear sauce. Here he plays with the homonyms “pear” and “pair,” matching birds, leaves, and fruits along the border of the plate. The two pears at the top lean affectionately against each other. The ink field enclosing the composition resembles a stomach in which food is being digested.