Yasuo Kuniyoshi papers, 1906-2013

A Finding Aid to the Yasuo Kuniyoshi Papers, 1921-1993, in the Archives of American Art, by Erin Corley

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Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Yasuo Kuniyoshi was born in 1893 in Okayama, Japan. At the age of thirteen 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, and 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, he had established himself as an internationally known painter and graphic artist. 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, and took an active role in the war effort during World War II. Yasuo Kuniyoshi died in 1953 and was survived by his second wife Sara Mazo who preserved the legacy of his work.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, 1921 to 1993, measure 2.5 linear feet and reflect 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. The collection contains biographical material, correspondence, writings by Kuniyoshi and others, miscellaneous subject files primarily on exhibits and his participation in various organizations, printed material, photographs taken by Kuniyoshi, and artwork.

The collection also contains materials on Kuniyoshi's career and artwork obtained after his death by Sara Mazo, Kuniyoshi's widow.

Arrangement and Series Description

The Yasuo Kuniyoshi papers are divided into seven series, according to type of material. The contents of each folder have been arranged chronologically.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms. People, families and organizations are listed under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents and under "Names" when they are creators or contributors.


  • Artists Equity Association


  • Painters -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Photographers -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Printmakers -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Japanese American art
  • Asian American artists
  • Art, Modern -- 20th century

Types of Materials:

  • Works of art
  • Photographs


The collection was donated in installments, from 1969 to 1995, by Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi, Yasuo Kuniyoshi's widow.

Separated and Related Materials

A loaned scrapbook is available on reel D176 but is not described in this finding aid.

How the Collection was Processed

Portions of the collection were microfilmed shortly after receipt on reel 439. The entire collection was fully processed, arranged, and described by Erin Corley in 2005 and the bulk of it was scanned in 2006, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The bulk of the collection has been digitized. Use of material not digitized requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

Yasuo Kuniyoshi's papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2006 and is available online via AAA's website..

How to Cite this Collection

Yasuo Kuniyoshi papers, 1921-1993. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1948-1951, undated
(Box 1; 1 folder)

This series includes a partial resume, and biographical summaries about Kuniyoshi for various publications.

Box Folder
1 1 Biographical Material, 1948, 1951, undated

Series 2: Correspondence, 1941-1989, undated
(Box 1; 5 folders)

This series includes letters to Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and drafts of letters sent by Kuniyoshi on various topics including exhibits and his status as a Japanese American during World War II. Also found is correspondence to Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi after Yasuo's death including letters of condolence and letters requesting the inclusion of his work in exhibits and publications. This series also contains letters sent to Kuniyoshi by Sheldon School students about his career as an artist and his letters in reply. Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Letters of condolence from 1953 are arranged alphabetically. Researchers should note that additional correspondence relating to certain subjects may be found in Series 4: Subject Files.

Box Folder
1 2-6 General Correspondence, 1941-1962, 1971-1989 undated
(5 folders)
1 7 Correspondence with Sheldon School Students, 1942-1943

Series 3: Writings, 1940-1952, undated
(Box 1; 9 folders)

Writings 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. Writings by others about Kuniyoshi include essays by Elsie McIlroy, John Baur, and Lloyd Goodrich.

Box Folder
1 8 About Other Artists, 1942, 1952
1 9 Art and the Art Profession, 1940-1952, undated
1 10 Artist Statements, 1944, 1950, undated
1 11 "Civilization Besieged: The Artist's Role in War", undated
1 12 "East to West", 1940
1 13 Lithography, 1946, undated
1 14 Notes for Autobiography, 1944
1 15 Preliminary Notes for Autobiography, 1944
1 16 Writings by Others About Kuniyoshi, 1948, undated

Series 4: Miscellaneous Subject Files, 1939-1993, undated
(Box 1-2; 0.6 linear feet)

Found here are miscellaneous files on various aspects of Kuniyoshi's career. The series documents Kuniyoshi's involvement in various social, political, and art organizations, including the East West Association, the Artists' Equity Association, and the Japanese American Committee for Democracy. These records of his involvement include correspondence, speeches, printed material and other notes. Also found are transcripts of the radio broadcast, "Japan Against Japan," exhibition records, card file inventories of Kuniyoshi's work owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and records of his participation in the Woodstock Art Conference. Files are arranged alphabetically by subject, and many subject headings are based on files created by Sara Mazo Kuniyoshi.

Box Folder
1 17 An American Group, Inc., 1939-1951, undated
1 18-21 Artists' Equity Association, 1946-1952, undated
(4 folders)
1 22 Arts Council of Japanese Americans for Democracy, 1942-1944, undated
1 23 Card File Inventory of Etchings, 1959
1 24 Dallas Art Association, 1956
1 25 Declaration of Loyalty, Committee of Japanese Artists Resident in New York City, 1941
1 26 East and West Association, 1956
1 27 Greater New York Committee For Japanese Americans, Inc., 1944-1946
1 28 Japanese American Anthology Collection, 1975-1980
1 29 Japanese American Committee for Democracy, 1943-1944
1 30 Kuniyoshi Memorial Exhibition, Japan, 1953-1955
1 31 List of Gifts to Kuniyoshi Museum, 1993
1 32 Mainichi Press International Exhibition, 1951-1952
1 33 Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1948-1950, undated
1 34-36 Museum of Modern Art Card File Inventory, undated
(3 folders)
1 37 Office of War Information Poster Project, 1942
1 38 Radio Broadcast, "Japan Against Japan", 1942
1 39 Retrospective Exhibition, Whitney Museum of Art, 1948
1 40 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Lecture, Transcript, 1951
1 41-42 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Lecture, 7" Reel-to-Reel Audio Tapes, 1951
(2 folders)
1 43 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Lecture, Duplicate Cassette Tape, 1951
1 44 United China Relief, Inc., 1942
1 45 United Nations In America Dinner, 1943
Box Folder
2 1 Woodstock Art Conference, 1947-1952, undated

Series 5: Printed Material, 1921-1986, undated
(Box 2-3; 1.0 linear foot)

Found in this series are newspaper and magazine clippings about Kuniyoshi and about World War II, exhibition catalogues, magazines, and miscellaneous event announcements, brochures, and bulletins.

Box Folder
2 2 Clippings, Biographical, 1940-1964, 1982, undated
2 3 Clippings, World War II, 1944-1945, undated
(not scanned)
2 4-14 Exhibition Catalogs, 1936-1986
(11 folders)
2 15-16 Exhibition Catalogs, Photocopies, 1921-1952
(2 folders; not scanned)
2 17 Magazines, Art News, 1939, 1942, 1945-1947
(not scanned)
2 18-19 Magazines, Miscellaneous, 1924-1939
(2 folders)
Box Folder
3 (hol) 1-2 Magazines, Miscellaneous, 1940-1965, 1971
(2 folders)
3 (hol) 3 Magazines, Miscellaneous, Photocopies, 1930-1949
(not scanned)
3 (hol) 4 Miscellaneous, 1934-1975

Series 6: Photographs, 1936-1939, undated
(Box 3; 1 folder)

This series includes photographs of artists, including Henry Mattson, Francis Criss, Julian Levi, Emil Ganso, Doris and Russell Lee, and others, taken by Yasuo Kuniyoshi.

Box Folder
3 (hol) 5 Artists Photographed by Kuniyoshi, 1936-1939, undated

Series 7: Artwork, 1927, undated
(Box 3-4, 3 folders)

Artwork includes numerous pencil sketches by unidentified artists, two zinc lithographic plates made by Kuniyoshi, and two lithographs printed from the plates.

Box Folder
3 (hol) 6 Sketches by Unidentified Artists, undated
3 (hol) 7 Zinc Lithographic Plates, 1927
(See Box 4; not scanned)
3 (hol) 8 Lithographs, 1927
(See Box 4; not scanned)
OV 4 Oversized Zinc Lithographic Plates
(See Box 3, F7; not scanned)
OV 4 Oversized Lithographs
(See Box 3, F8; not scanned)