Matsumi Kanemitso


To me, I want my work to be like life- everything that is different or opposite to be in balance, like yin and yang, negative and positive, day and night. I want to be just like sunshine, like moon.
— Matsumi Kanemitsu

Matsumi Kanemitsu was an American artist and educator, of Japanese heritage, who painted and combined traditional sumi painting with lithography.

Matsumi Kanemitsu was born in Ogden, Utah in 1922. His parents had emigrated to the United States from Japan. Kanemitsu spent his childhood living with his grandparents in Hiroshima. He moved back to the States in 1940. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, on December 7, 1941, Kanemitsu was arrested and placed in detention camps. He began to draw while in the camps with art supplies provided by the American Red Cross.


After his internment, Kanemitsu enlisted in the U.S. Army, at which time he renounced his Japanese citizenship and became solely an American citizen. He was based in Europe and worked as a military hospital assistant. When his tour of duty ended, in 1946, Kanemitsu stayed in Europe for two years. He studied with Fernand Leger in Paris and met Matisse, Picasso and other fine artists.


Kanemitsu returned to the States and settled in New York in 1949, where he studied with Japanese painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League. New York’s postwar art scene was in full swing and Kanemitsu became part of the crowd that included Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, who nicknamed Kanemitsu “Mike”.


It was in the early 1960s that Kanemitsu found his stride. He moved to Los Angeles and was given a Ford Foundation grant to work at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, where he translated sums painting techniques into lithography. In 1962 his work was included in the 14 Americans exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Kanemitsu taught at the Chouinard Institute from 1965 to 1979 and at the the Otis Art Institute from 1971 to 1983.


Kanemitsu died at his home in Los Angeles in 1992. He was 69 years old. He had married three times and was survived by two daughters and a son.


His works can be found in the permanent collection of The Met, MoMA, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and many other major museums and galleries around the world.




The New York Times. Matsumi Kanemitsu, 69. Artist Who Worked in Four Mediums. May 16, 1992.


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