Kiyoshi Saito was born in the Fukushima prefecture in Japan in 1907. He began designing signs for storefronts in 1924, eventually developing his work into a successful business. In 1932 he moved to Tokyo where he studied Western-style painting at the Hongo Painting Institute.
While exhibiting his oil paintings, Saito began producing woodblock prints by cutting and printing progressively from a single block. By 1937, he was focusing solely on making woodblock prints and the following year, he produced a series depicting the area where he lived as a child. The series was called, “Winter in Aizu”. Saito became a member of the Nihon Hanga Kyokai (Japanese Woodblock Association) in 1943.
As WWI came to an end, Saito exhibited with Un-ichi Hiratsuka and Hide Kawanishe in Tokyo, selling his first print. He exhibited at the Salon Printemps in 1948 and, three years later he received his first prize for Steady Gaze at the inaugural Sao Paolo Bienniale, an event that brought prominence to the modern school of Japanese prints.
In 1956, Siato was featured in Statler’s “Modern Japanese Print: An Art Reborn” and during the same year, he visited the United States under the auspices of the State Department and the Asia Foundation. After 1956, Saito exhibited widely throughout the United States and Europe. He made a woodblock print of Prime Minister, Eisaku Sato for the cover of “Time” magazine in 1967.
In his later years, Saito explored Buddhist subjects and the buildings and culture of Kyoto. Saito died in 1997, at the conclusion of a major retrospective of his work in Tokyo.