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

Personal life[edit]

Noh serie 2, 1972

One of the main themes that dominates Toru Iwaya's work is a strong nihilism and the constant internal battle he has faced through his life in searching for answers to life's existential questions. His mezzotint technique "black technique", which is a method rarely in use today, expresses the deep world featured just beneath the motif that is floating on the black surface. His nihilism has permeated him and his work, with few exceptions; we can see it as the predominant theme that drives his work. Another recurrent theme is also the noh mask. Noh masks are used in the Japanese musical drama since the 14th century.

Many of his works are in galleries around the world, in the National Library of Paris, City Museum of Koriyama, Japan, City Museum of Fukuoka, Japan and the New York Public Library

The France period[edit]

Praise to Klee and Miró, 2004

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

Horse - Light, one of his latest work of the France period

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 the Praise to Klee and Miró work.
Although he was not directly involved in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those two events had a big influence on his work, an influence that continues up until the present time.
His complete work was also published in 1991 in the Catalogue Raisonné.

The Japan period[edit]

Toru Iwaya returned to Koriyama, Japan in 1999 due to his wife's deteriorating health and his sister's mental illness. He continued his work teaching painting techniques to young students in his atelier.

Often used 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: Is a symbol of speed and power.
  • Noh mask: Is the exact opposite of the horse, is a symbol of serenity and mysticism.


Toru Iwaya's Website
Video of Toru Iwaya explaining how a mezzotint is made (Japanese)