Tōshi Yoshida (吉田 遠志, 1911-1995) is known for rendering realistic landscapes, imaginative abstract designs, and detailed portraits of animals in their environments. His style can not be easily summarized because he was constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of the woodblock medium. However, Yoshida’s prints consistently display distinct and daring compositions and color schemes.
Tōshi Yoshida was born on July 25, 1911, in Tokyo, Japan. Tōshi was the eldest son of Shin Hanga (New Movement) artist Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950) and Fujio Yoshida (1887-1987), and older brother of Hodaka Yoshida (1926-1995). Tōshi was unable to attend school after he contracted polio at a young age. As a result, he was homeschooled and spent time sketching animals at his father’s print workshop. By 1926, at age 15, Tōshi chose animals as his primary subject matter. However, by age 19, Tōshi delved into landscape painting and printmaking like his father. The father and son team traveled for one-year from 1930 to 1931, visiting India, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Malaysia, Singapore, Calcutta, and Burma. Later in his early adulthood, Tōshi attended the Taiheiyo-Gakai (Pacific Painting Association) from 1932 to 1935, which had been co-founded by his father.
In 1936, Japan fell under a military dictatorship. During this time, Tōshi lived in China and Korea and eventually moved back. In 1940, he married Kiso Yoshida with whom he shared five sons. In 1943, Tōshi produced oil paintings that depicted factory workers and civilians engaging in war production. After the war, because of economic hardship, Tōshi published seventeen landscape works in 1951 for American personnel and their wives. After the Second World War, Tōshi embarked on his biggest trip, setting his sights on every continent – he even did not leave out Antarctica. Tōshi produced detailed sketches of what he saw and returned home to recreate these images into prints and paintings. During his travels, he also showed in many exhibitions and lectured at various stops in Europe and America. Tōshi made presentations in thirty museums and galleries in eighteen states.
The death of Tōshi’s father in 1950 marked the artist's total break from his past and from naturalism. His early works, such as Tokyo at Night - Supper Wagon (1938) are close to his father's style and continued his father's naturalistic depictions up to the 1950s. In 1952, Tōshi began to make larger abstract prints in the sosaku hanga manner without the help of his workshop. In 1952, Tōshi began a series of abstract woodcuts influenced by his brother Hodaka Yoshida. From 1954 to 1973, Tōshi made three hundred nonobjective prints. In 1971, Tōshi returned to his innate affinity for animals and focused on birds and animals again. His Humming Bird and Fuchsia series in 1971 was a prelude to the African works that he began the following year.
In 1980, Tōshi opened a printmaking school in Nagano Prefecture and taught students like Karyn Young, Carol Jessen, Sarah Brayer, and Micah Schwaberow, all who later became internationally known artists and printmakers. Tōshi also taught his sons Takashi, Hitoshi, Kobun, and Akihiro his craft in order to pass on the Yoshida family legacy. From 1971 to 1994, Tōshi worked almost exclusively on animal prints and integrated his illustrations into a children's book. He wrote his own short stories and made illustrations in the Dobutsu Ehon Shirizu (Animal Picture Book) series. Towards the end of his life, Tōshi became too weak to sign his prints, but was still active in the printing studio and supervised the printing process. Prints during this late phase of his life were marked with a stamped signature plus an embossed seal. In 1995, Tōshi Yoshida died in 1995 at age 93 from cancer in Tokyo, Japan.
In 2015, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in Massachusetts recently featured an exhibition titled The Yoshida Family: An Artistic Legacy in Prints. In 2002, the Minneapolis Institute of Art also published Japanese Legacy: Four Generations of Yoshida Family Artists. Additionally, in 2013, the Art Institute of Chicago produced The Yoshida Family: Three Generations of Japanese Artists. These major exhibitions featured the expansive work of the generational Yoshida family. Tōshi Yoshida’s work can be found in numerous international collections and major museums including the National Museum of Australia, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Cincinnati Art Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Paris National Library, National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, British Museum, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, among others.