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.
Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection, 2014
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation
Yasuo Kuniyoshi, born Okayama, Japan 1889-died New York City 1953