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Yosemite River

Sugimoto, Henry [ bio ]

Yosemite River
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H: 31.25 in, W: 39 in, D: .75 in

California, ca. 1935


Gift of Madeleine Sugimoto and Naomi Tagawa, Japanese American National Museum


Stretched and framed.

River scene painted in Yosemite. Rocks and water dominate the foreground as the water flows from upper left to right past rocky banks and gushes around medium and large rocks midstream, against a background of trees or forest. Two figures are seated on the rocks at river's edge, top center. The woman in red bathing suit and straw hat has feet in river; the other figure in blue pants sits with legs stretched out on a rock.

Written on back, top center: Yosemite River, 39" x 39"

The strong integration of figures into the natural landscape is notable in this work. The quiet motion of the two figures on the rocks hints at Sugimoto's later rendition of the human figure in scenes of camp and farm life especially. Sugimoto seems to have been exploring depth and movement during this period, and the layered effect of this piece anticipates such early period landscapes as 92.97.52 (Untitled [Distant View of Old Mission in Carmel]), which also employs strong horizontals for depth. This piece is part of a series of views of Yosemite, but this canvas is the most open compositionally, with more controlled brushwork, and deviates from the other Yosemite paintings in its inclusion of the two figures. Untitled [Yosemite River] bears some relation to 92.97.53 (Untitled [Two Nuns and Church]); in both cases, the figures are dwarfed by the scene around them. This differs from many of the camp works, in which figures feature as prominent or dominant elements in the composition. The Yosemite paintings and the early landscapes reflect Sugimoto's interest in scenes of nature in which the landscape dominates. Architectural structures, which predominate in some of these early works from Europe and California, are absent in Untitled [Yosemite River].

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