Written on back, top center: Oakland City Skyline from Merritt Park
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.
This painting was done while Sugimoto was a student at the California School of Arts and Crafts, and was possibly his first
to be accepted in an art exhibition. "One of the older students praised the piece I had submitted," he wrote. "This was a
great encouragement and gave me the determination to work hard." 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 t!
he 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.
Lake Merritt City Park (Oakland, Calif.)