Toru Iwaya

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Toru Iwaya
Born 岩谷徹
February 12, 1936
Japan Koriyama, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Known for Mezzotint, Engraving, Painting, Drawing, Printmaking

Toru Iwaya (岩谷 徹, Iwaya Tōru, born February 12, 1936) is a Japanese mezzotint engraver and painter.


Born in Koriyama, Japan in 1936, the youngest child of Iwaya Kanekichi and Kageyama Matsu, Toru Iwaya went, at the age of 19, to Tokyo. After he graduated from the Tokyo Fisheries (東京水産), now called Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (東京海洋大学), at the age of 24, he moved back to Koriyama, where in 1965 at the age of 29 he married Keiko Sugano.

In 1971 at the age of 35 he moved to Paris, then deemed the art capital of Europe. The main reason for his move was the search for artistic inspiration. Toru Iwaya, self-taught in painting and engraving, wanted to be surrounded by an artistic environment.

Personal life[edit]

Noh série 2, 1972

One of the main themes in Toru Iwaya's work is a strong nihilism and the constant battle he has fought throughout his life in searching for answers to life's existential questions. His mezzotint technique or "black technique", a method seldom in use today, expresses the depth of the inner world beneath the image represented on the dark surface.

His nihilism permeates most of his work, with few exceptions; indeed it may be seen as the predominant theme that drives his work.

Another recurrent theme is the noh mask. Noh masks have been used in Japanese musical drama since the fourteenth century.

Many of his works are in galleries around the world: in the Bibliothèque nationale de France; City Museum of Koriyama, Japan; City Museum of Fukuoka, Japan; and the New York Public Library; as well as in private collections.

The French period[edit]

Praise to Klee and Miró, 2004

Although he had started studying mezzotint engraving technique long before moving to Paris, his most productive period began when he moved to France in 1971. Owing to the poor living conditions he had while living in Paris, he devoted his energy to his work and to the mezzotint technique. It was during this period that he met and became a personal friend of the master mezzotint artist Yozo Hamaguchi. They did several exhibitions together in New York City. He personally regarded him as an older brother, a figure superior to himself.

During this period, he was influenced by many artists famous throughout Europe at that time, such as Paul Klee, Odilon Redon, Marc Chagall and Joan Miró. This is particularly evident in his Praise to Klee and Miró.

Horse - Light, one of the last works of his French period

Although he was not directly involved in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those two events had a big influence on his work, one that continues to this day.

A catalogue raisonné of his complete work Mezzotints by Toru Iwaya was published by the Oscar Art Co. Ltd in 1991.

The Japanese period[edit]

Toru Iwaya returned to Koriyama, Japan in 1999 due to his wife's deteriorating health and his sister's mental illness. He continues his work and has begun teaching his techniques to young students at his workshop.

Recurrent symbols in Iwaya's works[edit]

  • Crucifixion of Jesus: This is, as many believe, a symbol of the Holocaust and persecutions of the Jews as this happened years before his time as an artist. Toru Iwaya was very sympathetic toward human suffering and especially Jesus' ideals and sympathy, and expressed this through his paintings.
  • Tree: A symbol of serenity and purity.
  • Scenes of the Circus: Harmony of man and animal, which induces creativity in man. Harmony of men living together where one person's failure symbolizes the failure of the entire team.
  • Horses: A symbol of speed and power.
  • Noh mask: The exact opposite of the horse; a symbol of serenity and mysticism.



  • Uematsu, Hajime (ed.), Mezzotints by Toru Iwaya, with foreword by Masami Ono and introduction by Teizo Taki. Tokyo: Oscar Art Co. Ltd