The Hobby Horse

Sueo Serisawa
The Hobby Horse
Oil on canvas, 1947
25 x 20 inches
Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation
1980.051

In The Hobby Horse, Sueo Serisawa balances an interest in form and the organization of space with a sad poignancy, conjuring a portrait of the inner life of a child—his own daughter—holding a single red rose. The artist introduces dynamic tension through the repetition of overlapping rectangles—the shape of the blackboard tipped at a precarious angle echoes the shape of the window. The composition is organized around a triangle formed by the easel that holds up the blackboard and the base of the hobbyhorse. Serisawa’s abstract geometric design and the use of a sweeping, expressive line to outline his forms impart a solemn dignity to the work. The painting was in the Twenty-First Corcoran Gallery of Art Biennial in 1949.

Serisawa painted The Hobby Horse in 1947, the year he returned to Los Angeles. He taught at the Kann Art Institute (1948–1950) and the Claremont Colleges (1950–1951), where he was influential in bringing both Zen Buddhism and abstract expressionism to the region. He was also co-director with William Brice of the Artists Equity Association in Los Angeles from 1947 to 1951, a national organization run by Kuniyoshi in New York that provided advocacy and economic assistance to exhibiting artists. Serisawa’s later work combined the singular beauty and spiritual power of Japanese brush painting with abstract expressionism, creating spontaneous, abstract sumi paintings using watercolor and ink.