Bather with Cigarette


Yasuo Kuniyoshi ( American, 1889 - 1953 )

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General Description

Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s experiments with the subject of the modern swimmer demonstrate the artist’s sly sense of humor and were based on his summers at a coastal art colony in Maine. Here, both swimsuit and cigarette refer to newly relaxed codes of seaside behavior. The boldly un-self-conscious bather floating ashore on a minuscule clamshell recalls Italian Renaissance works such as Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1486, Uffizi). Solid forms, a flattened sense of space, and a dark palette mark this work as belonging to Kuniyoshi’s early career. He immigrated to the United States in 1906 and eventually moved to New York City, where he trained under Robert Henri and Kenneth Hayes Miller. In this scene, he follows his teachers’ example by presenting a modern, commonplace subject but retaining influences from previous centuries.

Excerpt from

Sue Canterbury, DMA label text, 2018

Fun Facts

  • The swimsuit worn by the figure in this painting closely resembles the swimsuit worn by the "Jantzen Red Diving Girl," a popular corporate logo from the 1920s.

Web Resources

  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery
    Learn more about Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the SAAM's online exhibition The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi.

  • The Oregon Historical Society
    View an image of the "Jantzen Red Diving Girl," a popular corporate logo from the 1920s with a similar bathing suit to Bather with Cigarette.

  • Uffizi Gallery Museum
    Explore the connections between Kuniyoshi's Bather with Cigarette and Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

  • National Gallery of Art
    Read a biography of Yasuo Kuniyoshi from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

  • NPR
    This article from NPR expands on Kuniyoshi's biography and his experiences as a Japanese-American living in the United States during the second World War.