Waitresses from the Sparhawk
74.7 cm x 105.5 cm (29 7/16 in. x 41 9/16 in.)
(Okayama, Japan, 1893 - 1953, Woodstock, New York)
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1991
"Waitresses from the Sparhawk" is an early work by Yasuo Kuniyoshi, painted just two years after his first solo gallery show in New York. Set in a popular resort in Ogunquit, Maine, where the artist spent his summers for many years, the work presents a seemingly delightful vignette about female friendship—except for that brooding sky and the slightly sinister tone of the surroundings.
This odd but intriguing combination of stylized figures, abstracted landscape forms, and narrative references reflects the distinctive synthetic approach taken by Kuniyoshi and many American artists during this period following World War I. Painted in advance of the artist’s first trip to Europe, the work is an amalgam of undigested influences, reflecting his interest in Japanese prints, the modernist landscapes of Paul Cézanne, and American folk art.
Characteristically quirky and mysterious, "Waitresses from the Sparhawk" is an important early painting by Kuniyoshi, the first living artist ever to be accorded a career retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.