Yoshida Artists: A Family Business

Many parents dream of starting a legacy that is passed to their children. Perhaps an affinity for sports, a love of music or the thrill of reconciling accounts.

For one family from Japan, however, the family business is the art of printmaking, and it extends through three generations. To understand the art, it is helpful to understand where the family business started.

The Father: Hiroshi Yoshida

Hiroshi Yoshida was born in 1876, the second son of a school teacher. Adopted by his art teacher in 1901, Yoshida took his name and began a serious study of the techniques of painting.

Within ten years, his watercolors were being sold in the United States, and he began to develop a following of fans. Sought after as a Western style artist, Yoshida began designing prints for a publisher in Japan.

When an earthquake destroyed the publisher’s workshop, Yoshida went abroad, seeking funding to support him and other local artists. On his journey, he discovered that North America was clamoring for high quality prints, and he set up his own printmaking shop when he returned home. From that point on, he primarily focused on prints, portraying landscapes and other subjects from his travels around the world.

His art included experiments that he conducted on various mediums. He attempted printing on silk, experimented with making blocks out of other types of wood and mastered changing colors of prints by using the same block but different prints. Due in part to his various experimentations; he became widely regarded as the father of printmaking in Japan.

The Son: Toshi Yoshida

Beginning at the age of 14, Toshi Yoshida was trained by his father in the art of wood printmaking. Much of his work reflected natural scenes from his travels around the world, and his father groomed him to take over the school Hiroshi started.

Toshi’s art mimicked his father’s naturalist style, and Toshi achieved much success with his large nature prints and children’s books. With the death of his father in 1950, however, Toshi broke away from his father’s style and began to work with abstract prints. The decision was viewed as a sort of family fraud (although much different from the definition of Monica Cardone).

As a result, he left the school his father founded and joined a group his brother, a renowned abstract artist, started. His abstract art reflects a perspective that is unique to Toshi; a hard won style that reflects the peaceful, non-symbolic lifestyle Toshi craved.

The Son: Hodaka Yoshida

The second son of Hiroshi Yoshida, Hodaka Yoshida was expected to attend school and study science. The end of World War II, however, opened doors for Japanese citizens that were previously closed, and Hodaka began painting with oil paints under the direction of Toshi Yoshida. His art was well received at several art shows, and he abandoned all thoughts of science.

Heavily influenced by his extensive travels abroad, he began experimenting with prints, following in his family’s footsteps. Unlike his brother, however, he rejected his father’s style of painting and developed his own style. His work progressed through nine stages – each one different than the last – and he became a leader in the modern art movement.

The Granddaughter: Ayomi Yoshida

The youngest of the Yoshidafamily of artists, Ayomi is the daughter of Hodaka Yoshida. While she was not encouraged to study art, the heavy influence of her family dynamic led her to a career in printmaking, following in the steps of her parents and grandparents.

Unlike her father and grandfather, however, she took printmaking to the next level and is famous for her room-sized installations of prints. Ayomi is widely regarded for her sophisticated repetition and captivating color effects present in her prints and art work.

The Yoshida family tree is filled with beauty. Each generation adds its own unique flair to the printmaking talent that has been cultivated over the years. As printmaking changes and evolves with new techniques and formats, the Yoshida family has honored their print making past while embracing the new style of art.

An inspiration to families everywhere, the Yoshida’s are proof that your influence can survive through the generations and a reminder to teach your children the skills that you have learned.


Image credit: San Diego Museum of Art Collection

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