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Daniel K. Inouye

Title Daniel K. Inouye
Artist/Maker Kirk Kurokawa ( 1974   -   Present )  
Date 2023
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions h. 47 x w. 35.5 in. (h. 119.4 x w. 90.2 cm)
Credit Line U.S. Senate Collection
Accession Number 32.00073.000

  • Object Description
  • During his nearly 50-year Senate tenure, Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii demonstrated a strong commitment to civil rights and an expertise in defense and national security issues, while effectively securing federal funding for his home state. Following his extraordinary World War II combat service, which cost him his right arm and earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, among other military decorations, Inouye launched his political career. He was the first Japanese American to serve in Congress when he joined the U.S. House of Representatives in 1959. Inouye won election to the U.S. Senate in 1962 and served as president pro tempore from 2010 until his death in 2012.

    Inouye's widow, Irene Hirano Inouye, selected Hawaii artist Kirk Kurokawa to paint this posthumous portrait in 2019. The Daniel K. Inouye Institute commissioned the painting and donated it to the Senate in 2023. Following an unveiling ceremony held on October 25, 2023, the portrait was hung in the Senate wing of the Capitol.

    Kurokawa based the likeness on photographs of Senator Inouye in his Capitol office (S-126), designated in 2013 the Senator Daniel K. Inouye Room. The painting includes several details that illuminate the subject's storied biography and career. The flag of Company E of the U.S. Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team portrayed in the background, as well as the blue Medal of Honor pin on the senator's lapel, evoke Inouye's heroic military service. Two publications stacked on the senator's desk—his 1967 memoir, Journey to Washington, and a copy of Hawaii's largest daily newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser—signal his long career championing the state's interests in Washington, D.C. A wooden gavel used by Inouye as chairman of the Senate select committee investigating the Iran-Contra affair rests on the desk near a pewter cup marked with the Inouye mon (Japanese family crest). In another reference to Inouye's home state, a lei of maile leaf twined with ilima flowers is draped over the senator's chair.

    Kirk Kurokawa is especially renowned for the realism and thoughtful compositions of his portraits. The artist, who is of Hawaiian, Japanese, and Chinese descent, was born and raised on Maui. After studying illustration at the California College of Arts and Crafts, he returned to Maui and taught himself oil painting. In 2015, Kurokawa became the first and only Native Hawaiian selected to paint the official portrait of a governor of Hawaii. His work has been exhibited at institutions including the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, the Contemporary Museum at the First Hawaiian Center, and the Hawaii State Art Museum and is represented in private collections in the United States and abroad.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
  • Signature (Recto, bottom left): Artist's surname in Japanese kanji characters
    Signature (Recto, bottom left): KUROKAWA
  • Sitter(s)
  • Inouye, Daniel K.

    Daniel K. Inouye was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on September 7, 1924, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii, and his law degree from George Washington University. During World War II, Inouye served in the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Composed of soldiers of Japanese ancestry, the 442nd became one of the most decorated military units in U.S. history. For his combat heroism, which cost him his right arm, Inouye was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart with Cluster. Following the war, he practiced law in Hawaii before entering territorial politics in 1954. When Hawaii became the 50th state, Inouye became one of its first representatives in the U.S. Congress. In 1962 he won election to the U.S. Senate. Senator Inouye gained national distinction in the 1970s as a member of the Senate Watergate Committee and, in 1987, as chairman of the Senate Iran-Contra Committee. He was a longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which he chaired from 2009 to 2012, and also served as the Senate’s president pro tempore from 2010 until his death in 2012. In 2013 Senator Inouye was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, becoming the first—and to date, only—senator to receive both the Medal of Freedom and the Medal of Honor.

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