Japanese American National Museum
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Oakland City Skyline from Merritt Park

Sugimoto, Henry [ bio ]

Oakland City Skyline from Merritt Park
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H: 25.25 in, W: 20.5 in

Oakland, Calif. | Lakes | Cityscapes | Buildings, ca. 1928


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


Unstretched and unframed canvas.

The Oakland cityscape as seen from Lake Merritt City Park, Oakland, California. In the right foreground, dark waters of lake; left, curving shoreline with dirt path on edge. Mid-ground, a bright green band of trees along the edge of the far lakeshore balances the light, cloudy sky above.

Written on back, top center: Oakland City Skyline from Merritt Park

In 1928 Sugimoto graduated from the California School of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and began preparations for study in France. This cityscape completed before his departure anticipates elements of the style that he would continue to develop in Paris. Already influenced by Cezanne and the Post-Impressionists, Sugimoto emphasizes the geometric qualities of the buildings that make up Oakland's business district. Heavy outlining and side-by-side application of colors flatten the composition and underscore the sense of structural order over specific detail. In Lake Merrit, Sugimoto is also interested in the soft, Impressionistic qualities of the bank of trees that line the lake. The cloudy sky suggests a specific time of day and Sugimoto's decision to view the skyline from the vantage point of the lake allows him to frame the composition in a traditional manner that emphasizes perspective and depth. These qualities associated with European painting demonstrate the range of styles with which Sugimoto was familiar as a young artist, as well as his identification with art trends coming from across the Atlantic. Although Lake Merrit is an American subject, Sugimoto's image could be taken for France, even though the artist had not yet visited the country that contributed so significantly to his artistic identity. When Sugimoto looked back on this period from before he left for France, he remarked that he went to Paris to learn criticism and to further his study. However, in Lake Merrit it is apparent that Sugimoto was already an advanced student of modern French painting before leaving American soil. (KE)

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