Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1889 - 1953)
Village, c. 1921
Oil on canvas
20 x 16 inches
Signed lower right: Kuniyoshi
19th Century wooden frame
Franklin Riehlman Fine Art, New York, New York
Private collection, Lowell, Massachusetts
Cahoon Museum of American Art, Cotuit, Massachusetts, Look Through Any Window, April 27 to June 13, 2010.
Modernist Yasuo Kuniyoshi was a native of Japan, born in Okayama, and attended elementary and technical schools there. At the age of 16 he came to the United States, and they settled in Seattle. Kuniyoshi attended night school at the Los Angeles School of Art, and in 1910, he moved to New York where he attended the National Academy of Design. He also studied at the Robert Henri School, the Independent School, and the Art Students League with Kenneth Hayes Miller. Later he became a teacher at the League.
Kuniyoshi first exhibited his paintings in 1917, a year which coincided with his exposure to the dynamic modernism of the artists "Pop" Hart and Jules Pascin, whom he later met in Paris. He visited Europe for the first time in 1925, spending time primarily in Paris and Venice, and thoroughly absorbing the modernist aesthetic. Back in the United States, Kuniyoshi spent several summers in Ogunquit, Maine, and was associated with the art school there.
In the 1922 and 1928, Kuniyoshi had one-man shows at the Daniel Gallery in New York City, but his career really ascended in the 1930's when he was invited to exhibit at the legendary Downtown Gallery, owned by Edith Halpert in Greenwich Village. In 1932, Kuniyoshi was commissioned to do a mural at Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center, New York City. Described as "combining the aesthetics of East and West" and a "magical garden evoking his world of fantasy with delicately rendered larger-than-life botanical designs"(Roussel 33), the floral motif was well received by the public. Kuniyoshi also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935.
The painting here, Village, is a "French quarter" fantasy, complete with artist's model, made up of architectural elements from Ogunquit, the Maine fishing town that was his summer home in the early twenties.