The papers of artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi measure 14.3 linear feet and 2.84 gigabytes and date from 1906-2016, bulk 1920-1990. The collection documents his career as a painter, graphic artist, and photographer, as well as his involvement in political, social, and art organizations, especially during World War II. Included are biographical material; correspondence; writings and lectures by Kuniyoshi and others; organization records primarily on his participation in various associations and groups he was a member of; professional and gallery records regarding business dealings with American and Japanese galleries, museums, and dealers; exhibition files; printed material; four scrapbooks; artwork; photographs of Kuniyoshi and others in various locations and at events; and artwork records which mostly consist of photographs and provenance information. The collection also contains materials on Kuniyoshi's career and artwork obtained after his death by his widow Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi measure 14.3 linear feet and 2.84 gigabytes and date from 1906-2013, bulk 1920-1990. The collection documents his career as a painter, graphic artist, and photographer, as well as his involvement in political, social, and art organizations, especially during World War II. Included are biographical material; correspondence; writings and lectures by Kuniyoshi and others; organization records primarily on his participation in various associations and groups he was a member of; professional and gallery records regarding business dealings with American and Japanese galleries, museums, and dealers; exhibition files; printed material; four scrapbooks; artwork; photographs of Kuniyoshi and others in various locations and at events; and artwork records which mostly consist of photographs and provenance information. The collection also contains materials on Kuniyoshi's career and artwork obtained after his death by his widow Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi.
Biographical material consists of a wide range of records such as an address book, resumes, biographical summaries, vital records, citizenship applications, identification documents, travel records, and documentation regarding Kuniyoshi's death. There is some limited biographical material on the artist's widow, Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi, plus interviews with her talking about Kuniyoshi.
Correspondence is divided into correspondence with Yasuo Kuniyoshi and the correspondence with his second wife, Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi. The Yasuo Kuniyoshi correspondence discusses various topics including exhibits and his status as a Japanese American during World War II. The bulk of the series consists of correspondence with Sara after Yasuo's death and usually relates to exhibitions of his work, and reproduction requests for the inclusion of his work in publications. Of note is her correspondence with Alexander Brook, Ritsuko Ozawa, Tom Wolf, and the Yasuo Kuniyoshi Museum in Japan.
Writings and lectures include Kuniyoshi's writings and speeches about other artists, art and the art profession, lithography, and World War II. Also found are statements on his own work and extensive notes for his autobiography. There are two sound recordings of lectures by Kuniyoshi at art schools as well as writings by others, including Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi, about Yasuo Kuniyoshi.
Organization records document Kuniyoshi's involvement in social, political, and art organizations, including the East West Association and the Artists Equity Association. These records include correspondence, speeches, printed material and notes.
Gallery and professional records include material on Kuniyoshi's career and the sales of his work at galleries. Found herein are correspondence, printed material and notes. There are files on projects and commissions, transcripts of the radio broadcast "Japan Against Japan," appraisals of artwork, authentications of artwork, art inventories of his work at various galleries as well as private collections, and records of his participation in the Woodstock Art Conference. Also noteworthy are the records of Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi's dealings with the Downtown Gallery and Zabriskie Galleries.
Exhibition files include a few files on exhibitions while Yasuo Kuniyoshi was alive, but most of the series consists of files created by Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi about exhibitions of Kuniyoshi's works after his death in 1953. Files may include exhibition checklists and planning documents, loan agreements, correspondence, photographs of the exhibition, and press materials.
Printed material consists of books, newspaper, and magazine clippings about Kuniyoshi and about World War II. There are numerous exhibition catalogs and announcements and some magazines, posters, brochures, and bulletins.
There are four scrapbooks of printed material related to Kuniyoshi and his artwork. The scrapbooks contain press clippings, exhibition announcements, checklists, and a few catalogs.
Artwork consists of etchings, numerous sketches and drawings in graphite and ink, sketches painted onto clear acetate which Kuniyoshi used for catalogs, two zinc lithographic plates and their corresponding prints, and a sketchbook. Drawings that Yasuo Kuniyoshi created for the Office of War Information during World War II are in this series. There is one folder of pencil sketches by unidentified artists.
Photographic material are mostly photographs of Kuniyoshi in his studio, at various events and parties, teaching at Mills College and with his wife Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi. Also found are photographs of artists, including Francis Criss, Julian Levi, Doris and Russell Lee, and others, taken by Yasuo Kuniyoshi. Especially noteworthy, are photographs of the Artists Equity Testimonial Dinner held in honor of Kuniyoshi's 1948 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. There are some slides and snapshots of Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi's travels abroad and a the house in Woodstock she shared with Yasuo, along with other locations.
Artwork photograph records were created by Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi to document works of art created by her husband. Files mostly include photographs of artwork with annotations regarding title, date, sale, and provenance. Some files also include correspondence, notes by Sara Kuniyoshi, exhibition history, and published reproductions. There are also miscellaneous photographs and slides of artwork which mostly consist of duplicates of artwork that can be found in the rest of the series.
This collection is arranged as 11 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1906-1998 (Box 1, ER01; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1931-2007 (Boxes 1-2; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings and Lectures, 1939-2003 (Box 2; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 4: Organization Records, 1939-2003 (Box 3; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 5: Gallery and Professional Records, circa 1924-2009 (Boxes 3-5, OV 19; 2.1 linear feet)
Series 6: Exhibition Files, 1948-2004 (Boxes 5-6, OVs 19-20; 1.1 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1921-2013 (Boxes 6-8, 14, OV 20 ; 2.1 linear feet)
Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1919-1978 (Boxes 8, 13, 15; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 9: Artwork, 1925-1991 (Boxes 8, 14, 16, OV 21-23; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 10: Photographic Material, circa 1920-2005 (Boxes 8-9, 16-17; 1.4 linear feet)
Series 11: Artwork Photograph Records, circa 1920s-2016 (Boxes 9-12, 17-18, OV 22; 3.8 linear feet)
Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1889-1953) was a Japanese-American painter, printmaker and photographer in New York, N.Y.
Kuniyoshi was born in Okayama, Japan. In 1906 he came to the United States and a year later began studying at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. In 1910 he moved to New York and took courses at the National Academy of Design, the Independent School of Art, and the Art Students League, where he studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller. He was married to fellow artist Katherine Schmidt from 1919 to 1932. After traveling throughout Europe, they moved to the Woodstock, New York, in 1927 and took part in the Woodstock Art Colony. Kuniyoshi studied and later taught at the Art Students League summer school there.
By 1930 Kuniyoshi had established himself as an internationally known painter and graphic artist. In 1935, he received a Guggenheim fellowship and married Sara Mazo. In New York City he taught at the Art Students League, the New School for Social Research, and served as the first president of the Artists Equity Association from 1947 to 1950. Kuniyoshi was active in social organizations, especially Japanese American organizations, such as the Japanese American Committee for Democracy. Although Kuniyoshi was barred from becoming a citizen due to American immgration laws at the time, he viewed himself as American and took an active role in the war effort during World War II, even working with the U.S. Office of War Information department to design posters.
The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective for Kuniyoshi in 1948, making him the first living artist to be honored in such a fashion at the museum. Yasuo Kuniyoshi died of cancer in 1953 and was survived by his second wife Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi who preserved the legacy of his work.
Also found at the Archives of American Art are the Yasuo Kuniyoshi photographs of artwork, a 1948 letter from Kuniyoshi to E. P. Richardson, and checklists of Yasuo Kuniyoshi prints.
The collection was donated in installments, from 1969 to 1995, by Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi, Yasuo Kuniyoshi's widow. Additional papers were donated in 2014 and 2018 by Stephen Diamond, Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi's nephew.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
The zinc lithographic plates and corresponding prints are for study purposes only. No reproduction or publication allowed.
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Yasuo Kuniyoshi papers, 1906-2016, bulk 1920-1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by Stephen Diamond, the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.