Chizuko Yoshida Biography

Chizuko Yoshida




Chizuko Yoshida (nee Inoue), was born in Yokohama, Japan on March 20, 1924, the daughter of a collector of Japanese art.  As a child she was musically inclined and active in dance.  Her training as an artist can be traced to her time at Sato Girl’s High School in Tokyo where she studied water color and from which she graduated in 1941.  After graduation she studied oil painting at the studio of Kitaoka Fumio and it was while studying with Kitaoka that she was exposed to woodblock prints.  She would later attribute some of her non-traditional woodblock techniques, such as the use of plywood and string, to Kitaoka. Chizuko attended design classes at the Hongo Art Institute following her high school graduation until it was destroyed in the air raids of WWII.  Due to the raids she was later evacuated to Aoyama where, according to the artist, she spent more time practicing the violin than on her art.

Returning to Tokyo after the war, Chizuko resumed oil painting and joined two important art associations: the Pacific Painting Society (Taiheiyō-Gakai), established in 1902 by her future father-in-law Hiroshi Yoshida and  Ishikawa Toraji and the Vermilion Leaf Society (Shuyōkai), an artist group for women oil painters, established by Fujio Yoshida (1887-1987) and others in 1920.  She also began submitting paintings to the Taiheiyō shows and in 1949 was made an associate member of the group.  It was through the Taiheiyō that she met Hodaka Yoshida. 

In the late 1940s, Chizuko started participating in the Century Society (Seiki no kai), a group of avant-garde artists, writers, and intellectuals who met two or three times monthly to discuss art theory and criticism.  Okamoto Tarō, a prominent Surrealist painter and critic, led these sessions, and during the seminars, Chizuko was exposed to an emerging discourse on the integration of Japanese cultural traditions with international modernist principles.  Under Okamoto’s influence, Chizuko moved away from the academic realism of her earlier works toward more abstract compositions.

Although she and Hodaka shared an affinity for certain techniques and themes over the years of their marriage, Chizuko honed her own distinctive and original artistic vision.  In her best-known abstractions, she expressed the ephemeral beauty of natural phenomena and the innate paradoxes in nature’s bounty: the balance between delicacy and strength, the variety within repetition, and the quality of transience as a prelude to regeneration.

In her earlier works, music was a recurring theme.  Later, in the mid-1960s, she was to embrace deep embossing which added a 3-dimensionality to her work. However, Chizuko is best known for her butterflies and these prints “proved to be very popular”, and commissions for new versions, in both large and small sizes, occupied her for many years. In an interview in 2000, she acknowledged the difficulty of escaping one’s own success, admitting that she continued to make butterfly prints long after she had grown tire of the subject simply because they sold so well.

In December of 2014, Chizuko was one of five Japanese women artists featured in the Portland Art Museum’s exhibition organized by curator Maribeth Graybill titled “Breaking Barriers: Japanese Women Print Artists 1950–2000."  The exhibition ran until April 12, 2015. The largest collection of her works can be found in the Yokohama Museum of Art, with works also in the British Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, and the Tokyo International Museum of Modern Art.

Chizuko Yoshida died in Tokyo in 2017

Sources: A Japanese Legacy: Four Generations of Yoshida Family Artists, Laura W. Allen, Kendall H. Brown, Eugene M. Skibbe, et. al., The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002, Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn, Oliver Statler, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1956.