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Reference » Ukiyo-e »  Artists Biographies

Toshi Yoshida 1911-1995

One of the most famous Japanese woodblock print artists of the 20th century.

Toshi was the eldest son of Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950), one of the most successful Japanese woodblock printmakers in the Shin-hanga movement specialising in the subject of landscape. He grew up in the artistic environment of the Yoshida family: his father, mother Fujio and grandmother Rui were all woodblock print artists and encouraged him to make sketches of his favourite subject - animals. At an early age, one of his legs was paralysed and it made impossible for him to attend school. His father took this time to pass the techniques of traditional woodblock printmaking down to his son.

From 1930 to 1931, Toshi accompanied his father on the trips he made to India, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Calcutta and Burma, mostly dedicated to taking sketches of foreign landscapes and animals. Toshi not only had his father’s passion for art, but also shared his passion for travelling. After this important trip, he studied at Taiheiyo-Gakai (Pacific Painting Association), co-founded by his father, from 1932 to 1935, after which, in 1936 he spent some time in China and Korea, and then travelled again all over the world including even the Antarctica. During these travels, he had several exhibitions of his work and actively lectured about woodblock printmaking in USA and Europe.

In 1940 he married Kiso Yoshida (nee Katsura). They had five sons.

His affection for travel led him again to the United States, Mexico, London and the Middle East in 1953. Through these visits, he gave presentations in thirty museums and galleries in eighteen states. In 1980 he opened a printmaking school Miasa Cultural Centre in Nagano Prefecture. A mix of international students eager to learn woodblock printmaking technique (including Karyn Young and Carol Jessen) were trained in this school which helped develop artists who gained international recognition in later years.

Gaining a strong reputation, his prints are now in permanent collections of national museums like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the British Museum, as well as in numerous private collections. He also wrote his own short stories and made many illustrations in children’s books. In 1984 his first illustrated book series on African animals ‘Dobutsu Ehon Shirizu’ was published in Japan, and remained in print until the early 1990s. His publication on Japanese Print Making: ‘A Handbook of Traditional and Modern Techniques’ released in 1966 had an influence upon the printmaking world.

During his artistic career, he struggled to make balance between staying loyal to his father and developing his own style while he sought how to renew declining Ukiyo-e tradition as a Shin-hanga artist. Although he chose to depict animals as his speciality in 1926, his early works up to the 1950s, like Tokyo at Night (1938), adopted landscapes in a style similar to his father’s. However, compared to Hiroshi’s elaborate, subdued and monumental landscape prints, Toshi’s usage of rich and profound colour succeeds in expression of candid traditional Japanese scenery.

After his father’s death in 1950 Toshi carried on the family tradition. Also, he experimented on his own, making boldly abstract prints influenced by his brother Hodaka Yoshida (1926-1995) in the Sosaku-hanga manner without assistance of his workshop in 1952. From the early 1960s he returned to figurative art focusing on scenes of wildlife especially in Africa and continued working in that particular style until 1994, the last year of his life.


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