She was the daughter of artist Kasaburo Yoshida and his wife Rui Yoshida. She married artist Hiroshi Yoshida. Trained from an early age in the Western-style, she went on to create both naturalistic and abstract watercolors, oils, and woodblock prints. Her paintings of enlarged flower parts are sometimes, and perhaps incorrectly, associated with Georgia O'Keeffe’s work.
Her father and mother had a family of four girls, but to begin with no son was born to carry on Kasaburo’s work as a Western-style artist. As a result Kasaburo adopted his most talented student, Hiroshi Ueda. A few years later a son was born, but Hiroshi was so favored by his adoptive father that he retained his status as first son. After Kasaburo died, Hiroshi enrolled Fujio in some of the best Western-style studios in Tokyo. As often happened in Japan, Hiroshi then in 1907 married Fujio.
Hiroshi and Fujio traveled together to the United States in 1903-05. They held their first brother and sister exhibition in Providence, Rhode Island. Only 16 years old, Fujio was an instant American art-world phenomenon, admired for her beauty and exotic kimonos, but even more so for her graceful watercolor scenes of Japan. Shows in other East Coast cities followed. She sold almost as many pieces as Hiroshi on that trip and on subsequent trips in 1907 and 1923-25. Each trip included travel around the world on the way back to Tokyo. She then entered Bunten exhibitions and received honors. She exhibited with Taiheiyō-Gakai and helped establish Shuyōkai (Vermilion Leaf Society), the art society for women.
Fujio’s first-born child, a girl, died in 1911. Overcome with grief, Fujio stopped painting for almost 10 years. In 1911 her first son, Tōshi Yoshida was born, but within a year he contracted polio and was partly paralyzed. A second son, Hodaka Yoshida, was born in 1926. Both sons became artists. After Hiroshi died in 1950, she lived first with Tōshi’s family and then with Hodaka’s family. Influenced by Hodaka’s abstract art, she began in 1949 to create abstract flower paintings in oils, watercolors, and in 1953 in woodblock prints.
Fujio published her autobiography, Shuyō no ki (Vermilion Leaf Record), in 1978. In 1980 she held her first solo exhibition in Tokyo. She died peacefully in Hodaka’s home in 1987, just days short of her 100th birthday. A very important large and scholarly exhibit of her work was mounted by the Fuchu Art Museum near Tokyo in 2002, where her treatment of light was seen as clearly differentiating her work from her husband’s. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts featured her work in its 2002 exhibit and catalogue, “A Japanese Legacy: Four Generations of Yoshida Family Artists.”
- Fujio Yoshida, Shuyō no ki, Taiyō Publishing Co., Tokyo, 1978
- Yoshida Fujio: A Painter of Radiance, Fuchu Art Museum, 2002
- Allen, et al., A Japanese Legacy: Four Generations of Yoshida Family Artists, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002.