Clifton Karhu

About Clifton Karhu

Clifton Karhu, was born on November 23, 1927 in Duluth, Minnesota, USA, along with twin brother Raymond. His career as an artist began early at the age of 12 when the young Clifton Karhu picked up drawing. Their parents were painters. But instead of enrolling at an art academy, he joined the military.

No one could have guessed at the time, how important his stationing with the U.S. Army in Japan was for him. He had already fallen in love back with the country, where he worked as the regiment’s artist. Upon returning to the U.S., Karhu studied art at the Minneapolis School of Art (today Minneapolis College of Art and Design) from 1950 to 1952.

A few years later he returned to Japan with his wife, to sell Lutheran Bibles. He soon stopped but remained nevertheless in Japan.

More Japanese than the Japanese
Karhu wanted not only to live in Japan, but also to be Japanese. His twin brother Raymond reported that Clifton did not own any western clothing and wore only Kimonos. And so it’s no wonder that the successful oil and watercolor painter, who was very much interested in the language and culture, soon found a new home in traditional Japanese color woodblock printing.

Tetsuo Yamada and Tomio Kinoshita, according to the literature, were to have encouraged Karhu in 1963 to pursue color woodblock printmaking. He very quickly joined the elite of the contemporary printmakers in Japan and he exhibited yearly from 1966 until his death at the renowned CWAJ print show, an exhibition of Japanese contemporary prints. He also exhibited his works internationally, in particular in the U.S., Sweden and Finland.

The Woodblock Prints of Clifton Karhu
Clifton Karhu’s woodblock prints, with their constructive precision, graphical structure and clear color, have their own style that has brought the artist great esteem not only in Japan. He found recognition especially in the United States, where his works are on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA, the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard and the Cincinnati Art Museum.

And now his brother has donated about 80 works by Clifton Karhu to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Clifton Karhu died in 2007.