PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Local Artist Ikki Matsumoto's Life and Work Will be Showcased in New Book

Ikki Matsumoto in his studio.

Ikki Matsumoto’s work is mostly known for its ability to capture the essence of Southwest Florida’s nature with a Japanese flair. Since the 1970s, Matsumoto’s prints, silkscreens and posters depicting the area’s wildlife have been on display in art galleries and in people’s homes.

Now, for the first time, Matsumoto’s work has been compiled into a book, called “Captivated.” 

"Deep sea Ballet," Ikki Matsumoto

The new book features Matsumoto’s classic pieces using clean lines and airy, easy-going colors to depict birds and other animals, that are iconic in the local art scene and offers a peak into his private life.

Sanibel resident Steve Saari, came up with the concept for the book after not being able to find any compilations of Matsumoto’s work. He also wrote the book’s text and oversaw its creative direction.

“If you’re anywhere in the area and you walk into most people’s homes, you’re going to see Ikki’s work, he’s that prevalent to this day,” Saari said. “Our feeling was let’s do something that cements his legacy, he’s no longer here, but he deserves to be remembered. And this book is a way to ensure that hopefully his legacy will go on.”

To create this first-ever compilation of Matsumoto’s work, Saari enlisted the help of his surviving family members. Matsumoto’s daughter, Amy played a key role.

“I wanted to be able to share him with the community and the people that loved him but maybe didn’t know certain things about him,” Amy said.

Amy said a lot of her father’s work was inspired by everyday life.

Looking at a piece drawn by her father showing otters sharing a slice of watermelon, Amy smiled.

"Ottermelon," by Ikki Matsumoto

“We used to eat watermelons, you know, growing up as kids and he was really good at spitting those seeds at us,” Amy said.

To create the book, Amy and her mother were tasked with digitally preserving Matsumoto’s work for the very first time. Because it was nearly impossible to track down the hundreds of pieces he sold over the years, they took to social media to search for Matsumoto collectors.

“She [Amy’s mother] also had put it on the [Matsumoto] website that we were looking for art,” Amy said. “So, we would get emails and phone calls they would say, ‘oh I have this great Ikki, or three’.”

Steve Saari said “Captivated” includes some pieces that have never been seen before and also gives a behind the scenes glimpse into the artist’s life.

Credit Matsumoto Family
Matsumoto pictured as a young boy with his father, Katsuji Matsumoto, who was a renown illustrator in Japan.

“A lot of people are familiar with the artwork but maybe not as much of some of the photographs,” Saari said. “These are candid, family behind the scenes photographs and some go way back, all the way to Japan to the 30s, 40s. So again, I think for people who are real fans of Ikki, that was a way to expose more of his life and history.”

The Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers is currently showing a retrospective of Matsumoto’s work and that of his wife, Polly, who died last year. The show will be displayed until Feb. 29.

Saari said Matsumoto intended for his work to make people feel good.

“That’s what his art does, you look at it, it makes you smile, it gives you a good feeling,” Saari said.  “As [Matsumoto] said, ‘there are no heavy messages in my work, I just simply wish to delight,’ and I think what a lofty, but wonderful goal for any artist and he nailed that.”

The book honoring Matsumoto’s life and work ,“Captivated,” is being sold exclusively online.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.