Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1889-1953) was born in Japan and came to the United States in 1906. After attending art school in Los Angeles, he moved to New York, where he studied (and later taught) at the Art Students League. He moved to Woodstock, NY in the 1930s, where he taught and participated in the art community there. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935. His exhibition at the in 1948 at the Whitney Museum was the first that the museum accorded to a living artist. Though limited by laws which prevented Japanese from becoming American citizens, and by restrictions against Japanese aliens during World War II, Kuniyoshi had considerable success as an artist. He also was involved in political activity both in artistic circles and in the broader world. His career was cut short by illness; he was only in his id-fifties when he died. A recent traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution has helped to revive American interest in Kuniyoshi's work; he has long been appreciated in his homeland.
Kuniyoshi is best known for his paintings, but he was also a prolific printmaker, producing both etchings and lithographs. Most of our inventory of his prints are lithographs, the subjects comprising three themes: women cabaret or circus performers, still life arrangements, and landscapes.
In 1917 Kuniyoshi met Hamilton Easter Field, and through him he began to summer in Ogunquit, Maine. There, in 1919, he married his first wife, the painter Katherine Schmidt. Scmidt and Kuniyoshi were divorced in 1932, and in 1935 he married Sara Mazo, who was a dancer.
A large number of the prints in our inventory come via the estate of a woman now known only as "Myra." They were gifts to her, inscribed "To Myra - Yas." The following provides some background:
"In 1941 Kuniyoshi left his wife for a woman named Myra, and set out on a tour of the Southwest (he would reunite with Sara in 1944)" Wolf, The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Smithsonian, 2015, page 60. On page 70, there is a quotation from Kuniyoshi's unpublished memoirs referencing Myra: "I'm glad that people never asked me anything about Myra because I think they know and never took seriously. Instead they ask me about Sara."