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A Family of Artists - Part 2: The Goodenow Brothers Make Their Own Marks

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Kyohei Inukai. (flicker)

Although their father Kyohei Inukai achieved the greatest renown as an artist, the brothers Julian, Girard and Earle Goodenow sons took their family name and their chief support from their mother Lucene. After separating from Kyohei Inukai, Lucene moved with the three boys to Philadelphia, where she worked briefly as a magazine writer, then settled in Battle Creek, Michigan by 1921.

In 1925 she married Col. Lucien Taliaferro, a retired army officer, and settled in Connecticut. During the early 1930s, she moved to Hollywood and joined the California Arts Club. Although she did painting and design, she achieved her greatest renown in the interwar years as a sculptor who carved small portraits in ivory—she offered a modern take on the classic art of the cameo. Her work entered the collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, among others. In later years, she also wrote articles on art. She died in Connecticut in 1958.

The three Goodenow boys started their artistic activity as a team. In 1921, they each sent letters to the children’s page of the Washington Post, which published the letters alongside a set of Earle’s drawings. During the late 1920s they attended school in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and joined a nearby artists’ colony led by professor John Erskine.

In 1929, they participated together in an exhibition of art by young people mounted by Erskine’s son in the family barn in Wilton, Connecticut. The show received generous publicity in the New York Herald Tribune, which singled out Girard Goodenow in its columns for special acclaim over his life-size iron sculpture of a horse’s head. Soon after, the exhibition transferred to the Julliard school in New York.

Around this time, the Goodenow brothers parted ways. The eldest brother Julian (AKA Rolf Julian or Stuart Julian) took up metal design, and opened a studio where he produced table silver and simple jewelry. In spring 1931 he collaborated with his mother on a show of carved ivory portraits and handwrought silver that was featured at the Fort Worth Museum of Art.

The following year, the two held another show at the Cannell and Chaffin design store in Los Angeles. It featured portraiture in silver and ivory as well as silver plates, bowls, and handwrought jewelry. In December 1934, Julien opened a solo show of silver craft at Los Angeles’s Ebell Gallery. After maintaining a studio for some years in Los Angeles, he moved to New York. During the postwar era he worked under the name “J. Goodenow” as a modernist jeweler and silversmith in Greenwich Village. His pieces are still prized by collectors. He spent his later life living in Katonah NY, where he died in 1975.

Even as Julian Goodenow went west in the early 1930s, his brothers Girard and Earle moved to New York City. After studying at the Art Students League during the 1930s, Girard (often known as “Gig”) worked as a graphic designer and commercial artist. Under the name “Gig Goodenow,” he worked as a regular illustrator for Women’s Day magazine during the years from 1939-1943, as well as producing for Good Housekeeping, Seventeen and other women-oriented magazines. In the years after World War II he travelled to Brazil, and did a series of paintings of California and Texas missions that was exhibited in Oklahoma City in 1948.

In later years, he achieved a certain reputation in social circles as a man-about-town. As an artist, he became especially known for his animal portraits, signed under the name “Gig”, especially his “pity kitty” and “pity puppy’ portraits of sad-looking, big-eyed pets. He also did book illustrations. In 1951, he provided 17 drawings and a two-color jacket for Meindert de Jong’s children’s book, Smoke above the Lane, about a tramp and a skunk. Reviewers in the New York Times and elsewhere singled out Goodenow’s illustrations for praise.

In March 1965 Girard Goodenow provided a series of nine oil paintings of cats for Woman’s Day. His cat portraits would later be displayed at the library in North Merrick, NY. Goodenow followed this up with an image of a German Shepherd for a series of artistic dog portraits in Woman’s Day. He provided illustrations for Gladys Conklin’s nature studies The Bug Club Book (1966) and How Insects Grow (1969), and Kathleen Daly’s The Cat Book (1974). At one point Girard and his wife Susy opened up a shop, named Susy Girard, in New York’s Upper East Side, where they sold needlepoint patterns and old furniture. Girard Goodenow died in 1984.

The most prolific and multifaceted career among the Goodenow brothers was that of Earle, the youngest. Like his brother Girard, Earle lived in New York in the 1930s and studied painting at the Art Students League. He held his first one-man show in 1934, at the California Arts Club, of which his mother was a member. The next year, he contributed an oil painting, “Spring, Montauk” to a show at the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation in New York. His work was also displayed in shows at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC. Meanwhile, in order to support himself, he worked in advertising and commercial art.

In 1943, Earle Goodenow exhibited a painting in a show of American artists at the Brandt Gallery in New York. New York Times critic Howard Devree described his work as “attractive” but “sober-hued.” The next year, Devree reviewed Godenow’s one-man show at the Ferargil Gallery (where his father Kyohei Inukai had once shown his art):

The Flemish masters, one feels, have been among his mentors, and a curious folk-art strain is also evident. But Goodenow has been working out an individual style in these portraits and figure pieces and the soundness and earnestness of the work is impressive.

In 1945 Goodenow had a second Ferargil Show. Carlyle Burrows noted in the New York Herald Tribune that the artist had turned away from his previous “meticulous, academic manner and was now exploring colors, with works inspired by Cezanne and Rousseau. “The pictures have strong flavor, even boldness of manner. But everything is not completely satisfying, as the painting is roughly emphatic.”

Two years later, Goodenow travelled to France and held a one-man show at the Galérie de l’Elysée in Paris. He was the first American artist since the Liberation to have a show in a Paris gallery. Anne Green, writing in Town & Country remarked, “He is an excellent craftsman, and I was particularly impressed by his nudes.” A reviewer for the French journal Combat remarked in May 1947 that he had not “affirmed his [individual] personality in the face of the numerous fads that threaten every contemporary artist; but certain of his paintings raise hopes that he will do so one day.”

By this time, even as he married and fathered two children, he began illustrating children’s books. Goodenow’s first illustrated book was a painstakingly illustrated edition of The Arabian Nights (1946). The work caused a sensation when it was briefly withdrawn from sale over charges of anti-Semitism: the text described a merchant as a “cunning Jew,” and Goodenow was accused of using stereotypical Jewish features in his accompanying illustration. Despite the controversy, it proved his most popular work.

In the years that followed, Earle Goodenow went on to write and illustrate a series of popular children’s books, Like his brother Girard, he concentrated on animals. His first authored book was Cow Concert (1951). In this book, a little Swiss girl, Marie-Louise, hears cowbells with differing tones and drills the herd of cows to play Strauss waltzes together. Its sequel Cow Voyage (1953) dramatizes a concert tour by the bovine musicians. It was called “deliciously funny” by a Chicago Tribune reviewer, who praised its “superb” drawings. Conversely, Phyllis Fenner remarked in the New York Times that if the drawings were “fascinating,” the story was too “slight.” Goodenow continued on with an alliteratively titled series of animal works that included The Lazy Llama (1954), The Bashful Bear (1956), and The Careless Kangaroo (1959), about a marsupial who can’t help losing things.

It is an open question whether Goodenow’s mixed ancestry affected his stories, many of which involve individuals dealing with being different. For instance, his book The Peevish Penguin (1955) tells the story of a penguin who is disturbed that he cannot fly, and tries to think up alternate plans. The Last Camel (1968) tells the story of a grumpy dromedary with a poor sense of direction. Among his most creative and whimsical stories was The Owl Who Hated the Dark (1969).

Even as he wrote his animal books, Earle Goodenow undertook a series starring Angelo, a boy in an Italian seaside town. In Angelo Goes to the Carnival (1955), he is befriended by a school of fish who find him a costume for Carnival. In Angelo Goes to Switzerland (1956) Goodenow sends his Italian boy to meet his Swiss girl Marie-Louise. Earle Goodenow also illustrated a few books written by other authors, including Frances Toor’s Made in Italy (1957) and Stanley A. Widney’s Elevator to the Moon (1955).

Even as Earle Goodenow continued producing children’s books under his own name, in the years following his father’s death he took over the name Kyōhei Inukai for his painting and sculpture (since he did not call himself “junior”—perhaps because his late half-brother had held that name—Earle Goodenow’s Kyōhei Inukai works have often been confused with his father’s quite different output). Under this new name, the artist participated in shows in the White House Rotating Exhibition, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and the USIA Print Exhibition at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair in Japan. In 1967, he had a show at the Goodenow Gallery (presumably family-run) in New York. In 1970, he had a solo painting and sculpture show at the Spectrum Gallery in Manhattan’s Soho district. Ten years later he put on a second solo show at the Suzuki Gallery.

The younger Kyōhei Inukai worked in a variety of styles, from abstract expressionism to constructivism, and was known for his use of bright colors. Inukai also became known for his abstract sculptures, especially in aluminum and steel. Inukai’s painting is included in such collections as those of the Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo; the Portland Museum of Fine Art, Oregon; the Rose Art Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts; and the Wichita University Museum of Fine Art. His sculptures can be found in such places as Knoxville, Tennessee; the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, NJ; and Riverside Mall in Chicago. Earle Goodenow/Kyōhei Inukai died in February 1985, shortly before the centenary of his father and namesake.

The Goodenow brothers, despite their Japanese paternal heritage and appearance, did not put themselves forward as Asian American in their youth, and their work was not viewed through the same orientalist lens as their father’s. Even after Earle Goodenow literally reclaimed his father’s Japanese name, neither he nor his brothers were generally considered within the canons of Asian American art and literature. It is perhaps time for a reconsideration of their work.


*Portions of the biography of Earle Goodenow previously appeared in my article, “The Early History of Mixed-Race Japanese Americans,” in Duncan Ryuken Williams, Hapa Japan: History: Volume 1 (Los Angeles: Kaya Press 2017).


© 2021 Greg Robinson

art artist hapa interracial marriage Kyohei Inukai mixed-race painter