Toshimitsu Imai

Toshimitsu Imai (Kyoto, Japan May 6, 1928 – March 3, 2002)

After finishing school at the age of 20, Imai started at the Tokyo State Art Academy. In his early style of paintings the influence of the Fauves is to be seen. Later on in time colour is still an important, if not the most important aspect in his style.

After his first solo show in Japan, Imai moved to Paris to attend the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and the Sorbonne in 1952. Two years later Imai had shown his paintings at the Salon de L’art Sacré. 

Changing from representational to abstract art in march 1955, Toshimitsu Imai organised a group show in his home country together with Sam Francis and George Mathieu in 1956. This decision had a crucial role in introducing European Abtract art to Japan. 

Success at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1953 and the Venice Biennale in 1960 brought Imai international acclaim, which was followed by recognition in Japan in 1962. There the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo bought several of his paintings and he was awarded a prize at the 5th Exhibition of Japanese Contemporary Art in Tokyo. 

Being more often in Japan after 1970 had an influence on his works: Imani added Japanese elements to his works and integrated words into his pictures so that they could be the support for poems. 

Being in Japan made Imai more active in his home country and in 1984 Toshimitsu Imai co-founded the Japanese Contemporary Artists' Association (JCAA)

At the age of 73 Tohsimitsu Imai died on March 3 2002 after a long illness.

Art and Technique

Imai is best known for his abstract works where he has tried to create an “allover”chaotic composition on canvas using thick impasto and inky lines. To create these compositions, he used gravity rather than brushes, letting the paint drip or splash on canvas creating complex shapes and forms. 

Toshimitsu derived the inspiration from Fauvism, poetry, philosophy, history and song. 


1953 Sao Paulo Biennial

1960 Venice Biennial 

1962 The Japanese Contemporary art exhibition, Tokyo

1982 Centre Pompidou


Born in Kioto on May 6th, 1928

Site: Hellingproof | Devign | Virtuo