Born in Ōita in 1927, Ryo Hirano is a self-taught Japanese painter who is best known for his expressive abstract depictions of human figures and landscapes, which are deeply rooted in the psychological landscape of post-war Japanese society.
Having spent his youth amidst the turmoil of the Second World War, Hirano made living by drawing portraits and posters in the early days. It was in the late 1950s that he gained recognition as an artist among the avant-garde art scene, and his style developed from realism to abstraction around 1955. After briefly experimenting with minimalistic abstraction in the early 1960s, he returned to human figures in the 1970s. In these works, subjects were boldly reduced to accumulations of lines, with the influence of Alberto Giacometti becoming evident. Other key subjects included self-portrait, insects, plants, and void, which were often depicted in a nuanced grotesque manner and vitalized by the use of delicate impasto. In the 1980s, motifs from the natural world became relevant to Hirano’s work, and his style became comparatively calm and poetic. In his later years, Hirano traveled to Europe several times and made sketches of anonymous people in the streets. His work reflects his persistent fascination with humanity, its anxiety and alienation, in a mature and philosophical manner.
Hirano’s museum retrospectives include The Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art (1986), Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art (1987, 1997), Central Museum, Tokyo (1990). His work is also in the collection of several museums including Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art and Oita Prefectural Art Museum. He died of heart failure in 1992 in his homeland of Kitakyushu.