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Saito, Kiyoshi (1907-1997)

Born in Fukushima prefecture, Kiyoshi Saito began by designing signs for store fronts in 1924 and developed his work it into a successful business. His love of art inspired him to sell his business and move to Tokyo in 1932. There he studied Western-style painting at the Hongo Painting Institute. While exhibiting his oils, he begun making woodblock prints (Hanga) by cutting and printing progressively from a single block. By 1937 he focused on only making woodblock prints and in 1938 he produced the Winter in Aizu series depicting the area where he lived as a child. In 1943, he met Onchi, which led to membership in the Nihon Hanga Kyokai (Japanese woodblock association). At the end of the war he exhibited with Un-ichi Hiratsuka and Hide Kawanishe in Tokyo. It was at this exhibition that he sold his first print.

In 1948, he exhibited at the Salon Printemps, and in 1951 received first prize for Steady Gaze at the inaugural Sao Paolo Bienniale. This event brought the modern school of Japanese prints to prominence. Saito was featured in Statler's, Modern Japanese Print: An Art Reborn (1956), and visited the U.S. in 1956 under the auspices of the State Department and the Asia Foundation. From that year onward, Saito exhibited widely throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 1967 he made a woodblock print of Prime Minister Eisaku Sato for the cover of Time Magazine.

In his later years he moved on to figure subjects then to Buddist subjects and the building and culture of Kyoto, influenced by the works of Mondrian. Saito's prints, with their flat areas of color and solid textures were the result of his search for the essentials of nature.

Saito died in 1997 at the conclusion of a major retrospective in Tokyo at the Wako Department Store.

Kiyoshi Saito works are in numerous collections including:
Cincinnati Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, San Francisco; New York Public Library; Art Institute of Chicago; Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art; Kanagawa Prefectural Museum.