Happy birthday Yasuo Kuniyoshi!



Yasuo Kuniyoshi (September 1, 1893—May 14, 1953) was a Japanese-American artist. He combined Japanese traditional styles with Western modernism. His work included painting, photography, and printmaking.

Kuniyoshi was born in Okayama, Japan. In 1906, he emigrated to the United States, opting out of Japan's military school. He had studied weaving and dyeing as a young student in Japan. When he arrived in the U.S., he lived for a period in Seattle, and then moved to Los Angeles to attend the Los Angeles School of Art and Design.

By 1910, Kuniyoshi was sure of his ambitions as an artist, and moved to New York to pursue them. He studied at the National Academy and then under artist Kenneth Hayes Miller at the Art Students League of New York from 1916 to 1920.


Kuniyoshi in his studio, at 30 East Fourteenth St. in New York, N.Y., photographed for the Federal Art Project Photographic Division. Kuniyoshi is working on his painting Upside Down Table and Mask (source).

Kuniyoshi's early work conveyed the earthly world, often from a near-Cubist perspective. He created his early paintings from memory as opposed to painting from life. This is generally considered to come from the Japanese tradition of painting the most idyllic version of a subject.

Kuniyoshi often painted women, applying his personal sympathy to their characterization.


Strong Woman and Child, 1925 (source)

By the 1930s, Kuniyoshi was deeply affected by French artist Jules Pascin after taking a trip to France. His palette strayed from earth tones and became more luminescent, often including many blues and greens.


Dream, 1922 (source)

In 1935, he won the Guggenheim Fellowship.

As a Japanese immigrant living in the U.S. during the internment years, Kuniyoshi faced many political struggles. His American wife lost her citizenship for marrying him, and during WWII, he was classified as an "enemy alien" by the U.S. government. He only narrowly escaped the internment camps by offering his talents to the Office of War Information in the form of propaganda art.

In 1948, the Whitney Museum of American Art held the first ever solo show, a retrospective, for an Asian American artist.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 01 September 2014
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