Toshimitsu Imai

1928 – 2002

Born in Kyoto in 1928 to a family of literates. Imai suddently started painting and drawing at the age of 19. He attends the Oil Painting Department of Tokyo University of Fine Arts for a year in 1950, then leaves for Paris in 1952 without the consent of his father.

He studies medieval history and philosophy at the Sorbonne, and attends the Academy of the Grande Chaumière where he meets Atlan, Michaux and Riopelle. Later he starts exhibiting his work along with compatriots Yasse Tabuchi and Kumi Sugai.

Toshimitsu Imai’s work is charcaterized by a high sensitivity to color. In 1955 he is introduced by Sam Francis to art critic Michel Tapié. From this point his painting shifts to abstraction, Imai becomes the first Japanese artist to joint the Art Informel mouvement. He gets acquainted with Fautrier, Dubuffet, Man Ray, Pierre Restany, and confirms his presence in avant-garde groups.

In 1956, Imai organizes a group exhibition in Japan accompanied by Sam Francis and Georges Mathieu. This event facilitates the connection bewteen Michel Tapié and the Gutai group lead by Jiro Yoshihara. It allows a large diffusion of Gutai art in Europe, and introduces European abstraction in Japan.
By 1957 Imai’s work is exhibited by Rodolphe Stadler in Paris, along with a written catalogue by Tapié and Shuzo Takiguchi. His success is unanimous, Imai is then considered as a renowned international artist.

Later he travels to New York where he is represented by the Leo Castelli’s gallery. Follows international success at the São Paulo and Venice Biennales. He is rewarded the Price of the 5th Japanese contemporary art exhibition in 1961. In 1982, his work is showed at the Centre George Pompidou and in 1984 he founds the Association of Contemporary Japanese artists.
In 1997 he is made ‘Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ in France.

For Imai art is an ‘eternal renewal’. He dies in 2002 in Kyoto.


– 1952 First solo exhibition at Shirokiya department store, Tokyo, Japan
– 1953 Galerie 25, Paris, France
– 1957 Galerie Stadler, Paris, France
– 1957 Exhibition at Kintetsu department store, Osaka, Japan
– 1958 Minami gallery, Tokyo, Japan
– 1959 Galeria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy
– 1960 Galeria l’Attico, Rome, Italy
– 1961 Galeria Blu, Milan, Italy
– 1962 Saint-Stephan gallery, Vienna, Austria
– 1964 Galeria Ischia, Napoli, Italy
– 1969 Retrospective at Mitsukoshi department store, Tokyo, Japan
– 1989 Retrospective at the National musuem of International Art, Osaka, Japan
– 1989 Retrospective at Meguro museum, Tokyo, Japan
– 1989 Retrospective at Iwaki Art museum, Japan
– 1990 Urban Gallery, Paris, France


– 1952 Participation to ‘The 4th Independant Exhibition’ organized by Yomiuri Newspaper
– 1953 Salon des Indépendants, Paris, France
– 1953 Exhibition at « Foyer des Artistes », Paris, France
– 1953 Salon de l’art Sacré, Paris, France
– 1953 Le Cercle de Jeunesse, Paris, France
– 1954 ‘Japanese Painters in Paris’ Leverkusen museum, Germany
– 1955 Cercle Volney, Paris, France
– 1955 Galerie Weiller, Paris, France
– 1956 Leo Castelli gallery, New York, USA
– 1956 Galerie Stadler, Paris, France
– 1956 ‘Les Peintres dans le Monde’, Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, France
– 1956 ‘Arte Otro’, Foundation Roma-New York, Rome, Italy
– 1957 National museum of Madrid, Spain
– 1957 Galerie Kléber, Paris, France
– 1957 Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, France
– 1958 Musée d’Art Moderne de Tokyo, Japon
– 1959 First Biennale de Paris, France
– 1959 Kolnischer Kunstverein museum, Cologne, Germany
– 1960 Venice Biennale, Italy
– 1960 Städtische gallery, Munich, Germany
– 1961 Nitta gallery, Tokyo, Japan
– 1963 Grand Palais, Paris, France
– 1964 Visual Arts museum, Buenos Aires, Argentina
– 1982 Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou, Paris, France


– Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
– Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, France
– Modern Art museum, Tokyo, Japan
– Museum of Modern Art, MOMA, New York, USA

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