Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection
born Okayama, Japan 1889–died New York City 1953
Strong Woman and Child
oil on canvas
57 1/4 x 44 7/8 in.
Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation
provenance: Mr. and Mrs. Harold Goldsmith, The Downtown Gallery, New York, 1956
Kuniyoshi's paintings often encoded his experience as a Japanese immigrant in the United States, where in the 1920s anti-Asian discrimination was pervasive, and restrictive immigration laws prevented him from becoming a citizen. (His wife, Katherine Schmidt, was disowned by her wealthy family when they married.) He painted Strong Woman and Child while in Paris, where the liberal environment and friendships with other artists, among them Alexander Calder, provided a sense of freedom and emotional support. The strong woman of the title is a circus performer who stands on a stage, French flags entwined at the backdrop. The mother figure, who may be a stand-in for Katherine, affirms her protective relationship with the child, who seems perhaps a symbolic portrayal of the artist himself.
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