Yoshida Tōshi

Photo of artist c.1985 by Yoshida Takashi

Yoshida Tōshi 吉田遠志  (1911-1995) 


Source: Modern Japanese Prints: 1912-1989, Lawrence Smith, British Museum Press, 1994, p. 39.

Tōshi Yoshida was the eldest son of Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950) who began teaching him when he was fourteen. At an early age he absorbed the techniques of old-style woodblock printing from the artisans in his father's studio. He studied from 1932 to 1935 at the Taiheiyo-Gakai (Pacific Painting Association) which had been co-founded by his father. Before the Pacific War he traveled widely with his father in Asia, Europe, Egypt and the USA. He continued to travel on his own, especially in Mexico, the USA and Canada and Africa. He remained in his father's studio until Hiroshi's death in 1950 and ran the studio thereafter.

His early works, such as Tokyo at Night - Supper Wagon, 1938 [IHL Cat. #5], are very close to his father's and he continued in his father's naturalistic style up to the 1950s. In 1952 he began to make larger abstract prints in the sōsaku hanga manner without the help of his workshop. From the early 1960s he returned to representational art but this time on a larger scale, concentrating on scenes of wildlife in its natural habitat, especially in Africa. In 1984 he published the first of many illustrated children's books on African wildlife (Dobutsu Ehon Shirizu) which have continued up to the early 1990s. In 1966 he published a book together with the artist Yuki Rei, Japanese Print Making: A Handbook of Traditional and Modern Techniques, which has been influential throughout the printmaking world. His workshop has continued to produce reprints of his father's and his own early prints.

Toward the Sky, 1965

A Turn to Abstraction

The death of Hiroshi in 1950 marked Toshi's total (but not permanent) break from his past and naturalism. In 1952, Toshi began a series of abstract woodcuts, influenced by his brother, Hodaka Yoshida (1926-1995). In 1953, Toshi traveled to the United States, Mexico, London and the near East. He made presentations in thirty museums and galleries in eighteen states. From 1954 to 1973, Toshi made three hundred nonobjective prints.

In Tōshi's own words “...it was an easy – I suppose inevitable – step to abstraction, but it was a step my father could never approve. Still I could not ignore the movement of the times and I began to break away from my former realistic approach two or three years after the war.”1

1 Modern Japanese Prints, Oliver Statler, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1956, p.169.

The Real Toshi Yoshida

Source: The Real Toshi Yoshida, Pa Kou Vang, St. Olaf College website https://pages.stolaf.edu/kucera/exhibitions-2/yoshida-evolution-exhibition/gallery/dragon-b/pa-kou-vang/ [accessed 1-2-23] and as footnoted

"As John Koening, from the movie Space: 1999, once said, 'It is better to live as your own man than as a fool in someone else's dream.' This statement is the issue that Toshi Yoshida had to face as a developing artist under the influence of his father, Hiroshi. The Yoshida family used a prominent and traditional style for their artwork. For many years, Toshi silently protested for freedom to choose what he wanted in his own art. Whether it was the theme of his artwork or his personal style, he had to go through his father first. Hiroshi was a demanding father wanting to shape Toshi’s art into a second-generation version of his own, but Toshi secretly opposed this pressure by avoiding the romanticism that exemplified his father’s work, and choosing subjects different from his father’s landscapes.

"The Yoshida family is almost a one-family art movement. The first artist in the Yoshida family line was Kosaburo Yoshida; he went to a western art school, and his incredible work demonstrates the Italian influence in Japanese art. Kosaburo only had daughters, and among them was Fujio, who was also a talented artist. Nevertheless, Kosaburo adopted as a son whom later became his son in law, the promising young man who became the famous artist Hiroshi Yoshida. Hiroshi worked primarily as a painter until his late forties when he became fascinated with woodblock printing. Fujio and Hiroshi had two sons, Toshi and Hodaka, who carried on the family’s artistic line.

"Toshi was born on July 25, 1911 just two months before his older sister Chisato, a three year old girl passed away. For the next fifteen years Toshi lived a lonely life, for he was the only child, until his brother Hodaka was born. According to Hiroshi’s plan, Toshi would become the artist, while Hodaka was meant for a career in science. Sadly, when Toshi was a child he contacted polio meningitis from his nanny’s family, which paralyzed one of his legs. This tragic incident played a big role in Toshi’s life as an artist because as a young boy he was not allowed to play outside with other children. Thus, Toshi spent his free time making art and inventing animal stories. According to Kendall H. Brown, 'Toshi also routinely sketched with his parents, who taught him the rudiments of life drawing'.1 Toshi was taught at an early age the beauty of art.

"Toshi was the individual that Hiroshi would most deeply imprint with his sense of natural beauty and light. Kendall H. Brown mentioned that Hiroshi was Toshi’s teacher and ‘most ardent critic, sought to mold Toshi and his art into a second-generation version of himself and his own highly successful naturalism’. This explains why most of Toshi’s artwork is similar to his father’s because Hiroshi wanted Toshi to fellow his technique. Still, it was hard for Toshi to please his father while trying to find and maintain his own identity. Toshi once stated that he chose to put his interest in animals because his father’s interest was in landscape; this was a way to differentiate his work from his father’s.  Kendall H. Brown stated that, 'viewers who are familiar with Hiroshi’s naturalistic landscapes often see Toshi as an artist who never fully emerged from his father’s shadow'. Perhaps it is that Toshi often painted and made prints of many of the same subjects that Hiroshi used. 

"Toshi carefully avoided the profound atmosphere and overt romanticism that exemplified his father’s work. In this way, he could distinguish himself while still staying within the style and subject that his father approved of. Brown mentions that, 'Toshi’s avoidance of dramatic atmosphere and painterly effects marks an opposition to his father’s print style; the resolutely peaceful and non-symbolic subject also seems to reject the nationalistic images that most other Japanese artists were producing.' By doing so, Toshi is secretly expressing his independent values through his work. In an interview later, Toshi said, 'My father loved the mountains, so I turned to the sea.' Toshi could only secretly oppose his father by still keeping his father’s focus on the natural, but choosing a different division of nature. 

'It was not until Hiroshi’s death in 1950 that Toshi could really break away from his father’s demands. In order for Toshi to break away from his father’s naturalism and his past, he resigned from his father’s Pacific Painting Society to join with his brother Hodaka's group called Plus. Toshi moved into abstract art because his brother Hodaka, who had also become an artist, influenced him. Abstract art was a new and different style to Toshi. Therefore, he found himself within abstraction.     

"Although Toshi Yoshida was strained to become the second-generation version of Hiroshi, his father, he eventually broke away by secretly avoiding romanticism and purposefully contradicting his father’s artistic values. Toshi opposed his father through his artwork with his independent values of what was important to show his audience. The result was a unique type of art where Toshi’s true character came out."

1 All Kendall H. Brown references from 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, p. 72-73.


The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo;  Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; MOA Museum, Atami, Japan; Sydney Museum, Australia; New York Museum of Modern Art; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Cincinnati Art Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; British Museum, London; Portland Art Museum; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Paris National Library, National Museum of Australia, Canberra; Seattle Museum of Art; Krakow National Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; Cleveland Art Museum, Worscester Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art and others.

Pencil vs. Printed Signatures on Toshi's Prints

Source: Shin Hanga website December 2000 anonymous posting http://shinhanga.net/flotsam2.htm [accessed 1-2-24]

"Although the Yoshida's have not yet found their way to ShinHanga.net, I had a recent discussion about Toshi's pencil and block signatures with Eugene Skibbe, the author of the book Toshi Yoshida - Nature, Art and Peace. He provided me with an interesting statement from Takashi Yoshida, number 2 son of Toshi." 'The fact is, that already during the lifetime of Toshi some prints got the printed signature instead of the pencil signature.'"

Due to hospitalization and the weakness of his hand, Toshi Yoshida (1911-1995) chose to use a hand printed signature with embossed seal during this period. However, he kept supervising all of the printing at his studio. So, you may find the following signatures for his prints:

1. Original Limited number with his pencil signature.

2. Original Limited number with printed signature with embossed seal.

3. Posthumous Limited number with printed signature without embossed seal.

4. Original Unlimited number with his pencil signature.

5. Original Unlimited number with printed signature with embossed seal.

6. Posthumous Unlimited number with printed signature without embossed seal.


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 (Produced in conjunction with the exhibition "A Japanese Legacy: Four Generations of Yoshida Family Artists," held at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts from February 2 to April 14, 2002.

Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989, Lawrence Smith, British Museum Press, 1994, p. 39.

Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn, Oliver Statler, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1956. p. 168-169.

Signatures and Seals of the Artist (a sampling)

Toshi Yoshida

吉田遠志 (Yoshida Tōshi)

pencil signed by artist

pencil signed by artist

遠志 Toshi with

吉田 Yoshida seal

遠志 Toshi with

吉田 Yoshida seal

吉田 Yoshida

Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details

Nude No. 6, 1952

IHL Cat. #202

Fantasy, 1964 IHL Cat. #1140