Early Years


Born May 28 in Ogden, Utah where his father was a barber in a hotel.


Sent to Japan to be educated. Lived with his grandparents in Ochimura, a suburb of Hiroshima, where a neighbor was his first drawing instructor.


Parents returned to Japan. Convinced his father to allow him to attend school in the United States, but his lack of English forced him to finish his education in Japan.


Returned to the United States and worked in a copper-smelting plan in Rush, Nebraska.


Enlisted in the U.S. Army in June. U.S. goes to war with Japan in December. Kanemitsu is held under military detention at Fort Riley, Kansas, with some 600 other Japanese-Americans. Continues to develop his art with supplies from the American Red Cross.


Transferred to Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Received first formal art instruction from Boardman Robinson during weekend leave in Colorado Springs. Volunteered for overseas duty in Europe.

1943- 1945

Served as a non-combatant in Germany and France. Met Léger, Matisse, and Picasso.


Discharged from U.S. Army. Married his first wife, Mildred Hunt, and settled in Baltimore. Worked as a carpenter and mason while continuing to develop as an artist.

1948- 1952

Drawings exhibited in group shows at Baltimore Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC; A.C.A. Gallery, New York.



Traveled to Paris to study at Atelier Fernand Léger under G.I. Bill of Rights. Disappointed with Léger’s instruction, Kanemitsu returned to the U.S. and moved to an apartment on West 69th Street in Manhattan. Enrolled at Art Students League with Harry Sternberg, Byron Browne and Yasuo Kuniyoshi, who became his mentor. Met fellow students Paul Jenkins, Warren Brandt, Marisol Escobar, Howard Kanovitz, John Hutlberg, and Joseph Glasco. Socialized with vanguard artists at Waldorf Cafeteria and Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. Met Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, William de Kooning, Harold Rosenberg, and other New York School artists and writers

Lenore Petit, Kanemitsu’s second wife.


Divorced from first wife. One person exhibition at the Baltimore Playhouse.


Death of Kuniyoshi. Moved to a loft on the lower east side, in a building with Robert Rauschenberg.


Solo exhibition of drawings at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Moved to Front Street. Met Lenore Pettit, began spending summers at her house in Georgica section of East Hampton. Met neighbors Robert Motherwell, Leo Castelli, and Alfonso Ossorio. Visited New York artist friends with homes in the area.


Married Lenore Pettit, a former fashion model and East Hampton socialite. Moved studio to 158 West 22nd Street. Met Phillip Guston. Work included in group exhibitions at Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, and Guild Hall.


Death of Lenore Pettit. One-person exhibition at the New Gallery, New York.


Sold East Hampton house. Lived on West 59th Street with a studio on 22nd Street. Met Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, David Smith, Raymond Parker, Ad Reinhardt, Norman Bluhm, Frank O’ Hara. Had a solo show at the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles. Kanemitsu had a one-man show at Dwan each year from 1960- 1962.

Kanemitsu in New York, 1954.

Jenkins, Maloney, and Kanemitsu in New York, 1967. Photographed by Syeus Mottel.

Kanemitsu in New York, 1956.


Kanemitsu at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1967. Photographed by Raymond M. Sato.

Kanemitsu and Jenkins. Photographed by Shigeo Ikeda.

Kanemitsu at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1967. Photographed by Raymond M. Sato.


Ford Foundation fellowship at Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Los Angeles.


Work included “14 Americans,” Museum of Modern Art. Received the Longview Foundation award. He received this award a second time in 1964.


Ford Foundation artist-in-residence. Ten-year retrospective exhibition, Akron Art Institute. Married Carole Donovan, with whom he had three children, Zoe, Paul and Patia.


Moved to Los Angeles as an artist-in-residence at the Chouinard Art Institute, where he remained until 1973. Exhibited work in numerous solo and group shows throughout the following three decades.


Featured in the International Young Artists Exhibition, Tokyo.

Kanemitsu smoking in front of the painting “Range,” 1964.

Kanemitsu smoking in front of the painting “Range,” 1964.

Stanley Twardowicz at Chelsea Hotel, New York, February 1968.

Kanemitsu posing with a sword, circa 1972.

Kanemitsu posing with a sword, circa 1972.

Later Years

Matsumi Kanemitsu in Los Angeles. Photographed by Diana Woelffer.

Kanemitsu and his children, December 1981.

Kanemitsu and his children, December 1981.



Joined the faculty of Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles.

1984- 1990

Solo shows at Louis Newman Galleries, Beverly Hills.


One person exhibitions in Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Osaka.


Died in Los Angeles.

Kanemitsu with his children, Zoe, Patia, and Paul in Los Angeles, 1978. Photographed by Douglas Parker for Muncipal Art Gallery.

Kanemitsu in his Los Angeles studio, 1978.

Kanemitsu in his Los Angeles studio, 1978.

Kanemitsu photographed by Kenji Shirato.

Matsumi Kanemitsu in Los Angeles, June 17, 1985. Photographed by Daniel J. Martinez.

Kanemitsu photographed by Kenji Shirato for Louis Newman Galleries.