March 24, 2007: Duluth wood-block artist Clifton Karhu dies in Kanazawa, Japan.

On this day in 2007, Duluth native and wood-block artist Clifton Wayne Karhu died in Kanawaza, Japan. Karhu was born November 23, 1927, to painters Arne and Annie Karhu of 1430 East Third Street. The Karhu family left Duluth about 1944 and moved to Worthington, Minnesota. Clifton attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and then served in the U.S. Army in Japan. He returned to Japan to work as a missionary and Bible salesman, but became disenchanted with the work and turned to art and teaching English. He worked in relative poverty for years but eventually began creating traditional Japanese wood-block prints that were very popular. His obituary mentioned that “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.” His work was often criticized as too decorative, to which he replied, “If you do not like my pictures, then hang them upside down.” Read more about Karhu here.

Clifton Karhu’s 1970 “After the Rain.” (Image: Public Domian)