Kiyoshi Saito

sold out

Kiyoshi Saito


Nara, 1970

Woodblock, ed. 58/80

15 x 21 inches

Signed Lower Right

Add To Cart

Kiyoshi Saito (1907-1997)

    Kiyoshi Saito was born in 1907 in a small village named Bange in the Kawanuma District of the Fukushima prefecture in the northern part of Honshu, the main Japanese island. When he was five years old, his father lost his business in Fukushima and the family moved further north to the island of Hokkaido, where his father worked in the coal mines in Otaru. When Kiyoshi Saito was thirteen years old, his mother died and he himself was sent away to become the guardian of a buddhist temple. He tried to escape but failed. Nevertheless the priests allowed him to return home.

    Saito then went to Hokkaido, where he took on a sign painting apprenticeship, which could have provided him a living for several years. At that time he dreamed of becoming a painter and he began to sketch gypsum casts at night. He founded his first sign painting business before his twentieth birthday and ensured himself a living and modest financial success. He reluctantly abandoned it, however, to study art in Tokyo. For the time being he was content with studying illustrations in western newspapers and collecting animations.

    While visiting Tokyo in 1932, he boldly decided to surrender himself to the big city life. He first worked as a sign painter and then later from 1944 until 1954 as an employee of the Asahi Newspaper Company. The job however was a secondary matter. More importantly, Saito became a close contact to Shiko Munakata through the job. He then decided to become familiar in the technique of woodcutting, and was not the least impressed by the color wood block prints of the western-oriented painter Yasui Sotaro (1888-1955).

    Saito continued to paint with oil and taught himself the techniques of wood block printing. In 1937 he presented both types of work for the first time in the famous Kokugakai Exhibition and was highly motivated. 

    The acquaintance with mentor Koshiro Onchi soon opened doors to famous galleries, where most notably American purchasers took an interest in Saito's work. Kiyoshi Saito emerged as Japan's most productive woodblock print artist, whose editions soon found worldwide markets. Sosaku Hanga artists were, however, first dismissed in the Japanese art world and their works were considered concessions to American tastes.

    Saito's work was henceforth displayed in important exhibitions and purchased for renowned collections. Saito was also often sought after as an illustrator for newspapers or as a commercial graphic designer. This new recognition and increased demand for his work brought Saito wealth and enabled him and his family to purchase their own home in 1970 in Kamakura on the outskirts of Tokyo, and another in 1987 in his homeland Fukushima.

    Collections: Cincinnati Art Museum, Greater Victoria Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, Denver Art Museum, New York Public Library, Art Institute of Chicago, Gallery of New South Wales, Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art, Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Art

biography taken from