This chapter reviews Kuniyoshi's prewar works and their critical reception. It argues that despite being commended for his ability to assimilate Occidental artistic methods and traditions, the term “individualist” that many critics bestowed on him was in fact a coded label that functioned both as approbation and distinction, one that insisted on attributing Kuniyoshi's art to his national and racial origin, and thus implicitly distinguished him from other Caucasian/white artists and their claim to “Americanness.” The individualist label pointed to critics' difficulty in deciding exactly where to place or categorize Kuniyoshi and his art, a challenge that would reverberate throughout his career and contribute to many of his identity crises both during and after World War II.
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