Theme/Style – Impressionism, portrait busts, medallions
Media – Bronze, watercolors
Artistic Focus – Gertrude Boyle Kanno is best remembered for her portrait busts, and Rodin-like bronze figures. Ahead of her time, she lived life to the fullest, unconcerned about the traditional mores of the early 1900s, while still pursuing a career as an artist with the utmost seriousness and respect for her craft and her subjects. Perhaps because of her free-thinking lifestyle, she was uniquely able to imbue her portraits in bronze with both dignity and honest emotion.
Career Highlights –
- Born Gertrude Farquharson Boyle in 1878 in San Francisco, Gertrude Boyle Kanno graduated from the city’s Cogswell College and then studied at the California School of Mechanical Art and under Douglas Tilden at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art.
- About 1900 Kanno had a studio across the hall from William Keith on San Francisco’s Pine Street, and exhibited with the Oakland Art Fund in 1905. Her studio building was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, along with many of her sculptures including busts of Jack London and John Muir.
- In 1907 she and Japanese poet-philosopher Takeshi Kanno were married in Washington State, since interracial marriage was illegal in California, and the returning couple was the talk of the San Francisco Bay Area. They made their home at “The Hights,” the Oakland hills estate of poet and author Joaquin Miller, who had taken on Takeshi Kanno as his protégé, and Gertrude Kanno as his ward and secretary.
- Kanno exhibited at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washington in 1909, and at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.
- Also in 1915, Kanno left her husband and moved to New York with fellow sculptor Eitaro Ishigaki, where they lived together at her studio in Greenwich Village. The Kannos divorced in 1919.
- Kanno remained active in New York through the 1920s, sculpting busts of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Albert Einstein, among others. She exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1923.
- By 1931 Gertrude and Takeshi Kanno had remarried and were living in San Francisco; and Gertrude Kanno exhibited sculptures and watercolors at the Oakland Art Gallery in 1932.
- During her career Kanno created portrait sculptures of many illustrious Californians including her friend Joaquin Miller, as well as Luther Burbank, Isadora Duncan, and David Starr Jordan, President Emeritus of Stanford University, whose bust was placed in the New York Aquarium. She also exhibited at the California State Fair, the Salons of America, and with the Society of Independent Artists.
- Kanno was on a trip to Japan when she became ill, and returned to San Francisco where she passed away in 1937. Later that year a memorial exhibition of Kanno’s sculpture took place at the San Francisco Museum of Art, which included many of her more well-known portrait busts of American subjects, and also the bust of Japan’s Viscount Takahashi Korekiyo, made in Tokyo shortly before his assassination in 1936.
- Kanno’s work was also exhibited posthumously at San Francisco’s Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. Her bust of painter William Keith is in the collection of St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA.
Bibliographic references are available upon request.