Imaï Toshimitsu 今井俊満 (1928-2002)


Toshimitsu Imaï (1928 - 2002) was an influential 20th-century Japanese painter. He was born in Kyoto, Tokyo and trained at the Tokyo Arts Academy, Imaï showcases a prominent array of art styles over his lifetime.



Imaï’s early days are representative of Fauvism, characterised by strong colours and heavy brushstrokes. Receiving the Kansai-Shinseisaku Prize and then the prize of 15th Shinseisaku Salon, he makes his departure for Paris to study Medieval history and philosophy.

Imaï's works convey a notable change during the 50's-60's under the influence of French critic Michel Tapié. He gradually moved from Fauvism into abstraction with the presence of figurative motifs and texts. By organising a group show in Japan accompanied by Sam Francis and George Mathieu (1957), Imaï played a paramount role in introducing European Abstract art to Japan. His own work was sold by Leo Castelli in New York and Galerie Stadler in Paris. The successful Imaï had with his work at the 1953 Sao Paulo Biennale and the 1960 Venice Biennale brought him international acclaim, followed by recognition at home in 1962. Imaï was awarded a prize at the 5th Exhibition of Japanese Contemporary Art in Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo bought several of his paintings.

After 1970, Imaï's paintings represented a more peaceful style where he integrated words into his paintings so that they became the support for poems. Following on the from the 80's, he began to integrate more Japanese elements into his pictures.

In 1984, Imaï was a co-founder of the Japanese Contemporary Artists' Association. He was awarded numerous distinctions in France and elsewhere in Europe: in 1991, he was made an honorary citizen of Madrid, in 1992 of Lyon. In 1996, he was made a chevalier de la Légion d'honneur and in 1997, an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In his last work, Imaï turned to war as his theme, dealing with Japan's attacks on China in the 20th century and the destruction of Hiroshima and its inhabitants at the close of the second world war.

Exhibition Highlights

2017 Sakurado Fine Arts, Tokyo, Japan, Fleeting Lines
2017 W. Alexander, Brooklyn, New York, In Black & White: Japanese Postwar Abstraction 1964-1976
2017 Sakurado Fine Arts, Tokyo, Japan, Impasto: The Gestural and Sensuous in Japanese Abstract Paintings

Recent Auction Results

“Rising Sun” (5 panels), 162cm x 650cm, Oil & Synthetic Resin on Canvas, 1961
US$415,040
Hong Kong, March 2018

“Vittoria”, 130cm x 80cm, Oil on Canvas, 1960
US$140,650
Paris, July 2017

“Untitled”, 73cm x 54cm, Oil on Canvas, 1963
US$136,240
Bond Street, June 2017

Artist Gallery

1/1