Skip to main content

Yasuo Kuniyoshi papers, 1906-2016, bulk 1920-1990

More Information

Erin Kinhart and Rihoko Ueno
Scope and Contents
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.
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.
Related Materials
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.
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.
Processing Information
Portions of the collection were microfilmed shortly after receipt on reel 439. This material was fully processed, arranged, and described by Erin Kinhart in 2005 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional papers donated in 2014 were processed to a minimal level by Erin Kinhart. The entire collection, including a 2018 addition, was reprocessed, described, and prepared for digitization by Rihoko Ueno in 2019 with funding provided by Stephen Diamond and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.