Miyoko Ito

American, 1918 - 1983

Ito 9554

Untitled Still Life, ca. 1943
Watercolor and charcoal on paper
22 1/4 x 15 1/4 inches (framed 23 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches)

Signed Miyoko Ito lower left

  • Ito 9554 framed

Myoko Ito was born in 1918 in Berkeley, CA to Japanese parents. The family returned to Japan in 1923 just the day before a deadly earthquake hit Yokohama and the family nearly escaped death. Ito was a sickly child and was introduced to the art of calligraphy to pass the hours. It spurred her interest in art and when, in 1928, the family returned to Berkeley, CA she became further interested in art and art history as a high school student. She enrolled in the University of California at Berkley to study painting and began classes with Erle Loran, Worth Ryder and John Haley. She became associated with a group of painters that called themselves “The Corps of Serious Painters” that included such notable artists as Ynez Johnston and Leonard Edmonson.

She married a Japanese-American man Harry Ichiyasu, but in 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the newly-married young couple were confined to an internment camp outside San Francisco. Her Berkley instructors and artist friends visited her at Camp Rann bringing gifts of food. She actually received her college diploma while at the internment camp. After several months of imprisonment, she applied for various art scholarships and was accepted to Smith College in Northampton, MA. She was helped though the Quaker Friends Society and though them she was able to get a release from the internment camp to attend Smith. Her husband had to remain in the camp. She completed her BFA coursework at Smith, but did not write a thesis due to her poor grasp of the English language. Smith College did, however, award her with a 1943 solo exhibition at the Smith College Museum of Art. In 1944, she accepted another scholarship to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. At at this time, she tried unsuccessfully to get her husband released from internment camp, but he was further relocated to a camp in Utah. He was finally released in 1945 and joined Ito in Chicago.

She exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, PA, the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, the Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago and in 2012, a solo exhibition at VeneKlasen Werner, Berlin, Germany. She is best known for her large, soulful Abstract Expressionist canvases that are full of rich layering and texture. She successfully bridged figuration and abstraction with her unique style. As a woman artist of this Mid-Century, Post-War time period, her works provide a powerful, but feminine message that captures the spirit of the age that is equally strong and important as her male colleagues. Furthermore, her work remains a potent testament to both the past and future generations.

Ito’s paintings can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, the National Academy of Design, New York, NY, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL, the Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, Greenville, NC and the Union League Club, Chicago, IL, among others. Ito died in Chicago in 1983.

612 Merchandise Mart
Chicago, Illinois 60654

(312) 644-8855

F icon

Gallery Hours
Monday through Friday
9 am to 5 pm