Kumi Sugai was born in the Higashinada district of Kobe City, Japan in 1919. He enrolled in the Osaka School of Fine Arts, but had to withdraw due to illness. In 1937 he took up a position in commercial advertising design in the advertising department of the Hankyu Kyuko Railway Company. After traveling to France to study in 1952, Sugai integrated traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock print forms and techniques with his own unique artistic vision; his exotic artistic style won him great renown within artistic circles in Paris. Initially, Sugai was heavily influenced by the Surrealist and Abstract Impressionist movements; most of his works during this early period involved pictograms. In 1962, Sugai began to gradually change his style, abandoning the original inherent meaning of the Chinese characters that he used in his paintings and instead giving them his own independently-derived significance. Sugai's later work tended to use clear, distinct colors and forms to express a
modest, down-to-earth aesthetic stance.