Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Painting a Picture

Myself, an undated work by Kyohei Inukai (1886–1954), a Japanese-born painter of society portraits who was shunned in America after 1941.

Javanese Coat (1932), a portrait of Dorothy Hampton, who posed for Inukai after his paid jobs dried up.
Kyohei Inukai, a society portrait painter in New York, kept a neat chronological scrapbook with clippings about his commissions for bluebloods. But after the fall of 1941, when he was only 55, the pages are all blank.

Once the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor nobody in America wanted to hire a Japanese-born artist. In his 1942 memoir, never published, he described the bigotry he faced when he stepped outside his Greenwich Village studio. “The tranquil air that spanned the sky is changed with crosscurrents of acrid recriminations,” he wrote.

Miyoko Davey, an art collector in New York, owns Inukai’s scrapbook, memoir manuscript, family photos, sketches and about 30 of his largely unknown paintings. For two decades she has been trying to revive his reputation, researching his work for an eventual monograph and exhibition.
Read more here.

Inukai photographed in his studio by Paul Juley & Son (Smithsonian Institute)

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