Joseph Yoakum


McHunt in Big Horn
Pastel, colored pencil and ink on paper.
25″ x 18″


(1890-1972) While Yoakum’s origins are relatively ambiguous, it is fairly sure that he was born in 1890 in Missouri to parents of African, French, and Cherokee descent. During his early years, he worked as a sailor, porter, and circus performer before settling in Chicago in the early 1950s. Although he was known for often embellishing his stories, Yoakum was in fact widely-traveled. The expansive landscapes that constitute most of Yoakum’s drawings are multi-faceted depictions that combine his own whimsical imagination and authentic memories. He often had a story to accompany his pictures.

Yoakum did not begin to paint his unique landscapes until he was in his seventies. His drawings often resemble geographic or biological cross-sections rather than conventional illustrations. He worked in pen, pencil, and watercolor, and his palette included pastel shades of blues, greens, and yellows. He finished his drawings by rubbing them with toilet paper, giving them an added sheen making them more “dreamscapes” than landscapes.

He was first discovered by John Hopgood, an instructor at Chicago State College in 1967, and up until his death in 1972, he was featured in various exhibits and solo exhibitions at institutions such as the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (New York).