Miss Kaji Waki, 1909
Robert Henri was a master portraitist dedicated to presenting "newly come immigrants" and others largely invisible to the genteel audiences of the Gilded Age. However, his portraits were concerned less with identity than with a "democratic individuality" he sought in modern life. This portrait of Kaji Waki is a case in point. Here, Henri conflates the tradition of the society portrait with the direct gaze and insouciant attitude of the street urchin. The brazen spirit is reinforced by the crude brush, which dashes her cheeks and lips with dramatic color. Yet Bertha Adeline Waki Kaji (1887–1959) was the paternal granddaughter of Count Rintaro Katsu, the "Last Samurai," a leading Japanese statesman during the Meiji Restoration. While Henri's portrait promotes her "exoticism," Kaji's illustrious bloodline precluded her affiliation with modernism's grittier subjects.