Toshi Yoshida Biography

Toshi Yoshida




Printmaker and painter Toshi Yoshida was born on July 25, 1911, into the respected Yoshida family of artists of Tokyo, Japan. Father Hiroshi was a celebrated landscape painter and printmaker, and mother Fujio established herself as the first female Yoshida artist as well as an Abstract artist later in her career. Younger brother Hodaka was an Abstract printmaker whose style, completely separate from his family's historic traditional bent, later influenced Toshi. Hodaka's wife Chizuko would become a pioneering female Japanese artist whose own exploration of Surrealism and Abstraction challenged the status quo. Toshi, however, as the eldest sibling, was expected to follow in his father's footsteps, and from an early age he was trained by Hiroshi in his studio.

Unable to attend formal schooling due to the polio-induced paralyzation of his leg, Toshi would instead help with his family's printmaking studio and go on sketching trips with Hiroshi. As he got older, these trips would include India and Southeast Asia, working from morning to night taking night trains to get from one destination to another. Among Toshi's favorite subjects were the animals he discovered along the way. However, these trips ended as Japan entered military dictatorship in the mid 1930s, and artists whose work showed signs of Western influence were barred from exhibiting. At this time, Toshi left Japan for China and Korea, where he would remain for the duration of the war. He stuck to patriotic themes to remain in business, and after the end of World War II, as Japan struggled to recover from wartime economic depression, he earned his living creating traditional Japanese woodcut landscapes for American personnel.

Toshi Yoshida took up traveling once more, going as far as Antartica. He began exhibiting internationally for the first time in his career, as well, including in including in London, China, the US and Mexico, and was invited to lecture on printmaking techniques at various intitutions.

After the death of his father in 1950, Toshi began to stretch his stylistic horizon to include Abstraction, influenced by his younger siblings. Between 1954 and 1973 Toshi had created around 300 non-objective prints. In 1971 he began working as a children's book illustrator, going back to his roots as a renderer of animals and exotic landscapes, and eventually abandoned Abstraction to focus his energy exclusively on illustration. In 1980 he opened his own printmaking school in the Nagano Prefecture, attracting students from all over the world, among them Micah Schwaberow, Carol Jessen, Karyn Young, and others who would go on to become successful woodblock printmakers.

Toshi Yoshida died of cancer on July 1, 1995 in Tokyo, Japan, just a few weeks shy of his 84th birthday.