Home » Underrated Canadian Artist: Takao Tanabe

Underrated Canadian Artist: Takao Tanabe

Takao Tanabe was born in British Columbia in 1926 and was interned with other Japanese-Canadians in BC during World War II.  He studied in Winnipeg, London and Toyko, and in New York at the Brooklyn Museum Art School where he was taught by the famous German-born American abstract expressionist painter Hans Hoffman.

The artist Takao Tanabe. Image: gov.bc.ca

Takao Tanabe was awarded the Emily Carr Foundation Scholarship in 1953,a Canada Council Fellowship in 1959 and a Canada Council Senior Fellowship in 1969.

Takao Tanabe, Gogit passage Q.C. IS, 1988. Woodblock print. Image: artnet.com

The subjects of Takao Tanabe’s paintings are almost exclusively landscapes of British Columbia and are executed in thin, translucent washes of acrylic paint reminiscent of watercolour.

An early work by Tanabe, Fallingwater, c. 1962. It was purchased the same year by the National Gallery of Canada.

He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy and was awarded the Order of Canada for his ongoing contribution to the cultural landscape of Canada and his continued support of younger artists. Surprisingly, his woodblock prints are relatively affordable. They range in price from $2,200 – $3,500 at Vancouver’s Equinox Gallery.

Takao Tanabe, Inside Passage, 2007. Woodblock print. Image: equinoxgallery.com

His work is held in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada among many others, and he is represented by Equinox Gallery in Vancouver.

8 Responses to “Underrated Canadian Artist: Takao Tanabe”

  1. Catharine Chesterman says:

    Please watch ‘Takao Tanabe: A Work of Art’, a biographical portrait of this great Canadian painter. The film gives the audience a true sense of the man whilst at the same time giving them their own private retrospective viewing of his remarkable body of work. Premiering on CTV/Bravo! January 31st 2010.

  2. Rosana Hart says:

    It was the film mentioned above that brought me to this website. My husband and I just finished watching it and I was curious to learn more about the work of this extraordinary man. Kudos to Catharine Chesterman for the film.

  3. Amrita says:

    I am belatedly catching up on your blog, and was happy to see this post. I am amazed at how many Canadians in the art world don’t know of Tanabe. The McMichael has a wonderful retrospective of his work 3 years ago & I was lucky to have stumbled into him giving a tour on the day I happened to visit. Perhaps because of his age and accomplishment, he is incredibly humble and gentle, a refreshing change from the brash, big ego contemporary artist that gets more attention in the media.

    His landscapes are incredibly powerful, but they are all the more interesting to me, having seen his origins as an abstract artist. (He still paints abstract works but told us he “keeps them in a drawer” for the most part).

    Mira Godard Gallery in Toronto is holding an exhibition of his work in February 2010.

  4. AC says:

    The film Takao Tanabe: A Work of Art will be screening at the Canadian Art Reel Artists Film Festival that I’m promoting. Saturday February 27 at 4:30 pm in Toronto.

    More info here: http://www.canadianart.ca/microsites/REELARTISTS/

  5. Anne Hurst (Chisholn) says:

    Dear Mr. Tanabe: I watched “A Work of Art” and I really enjoyed it. I love your work and this story is very interesting, your artistic journey from student to a professional artist is very amazing and helpful in showing this process. I wanted to be an artist since I can remember, I never got the opportunity after high school to go to school for visual arts, my parents wouldn’t allow it. But after a severe car crash I was left in Intensive care with a head injury and at least 20 fractures, internal bleeding, bleeding into my crushed left thorax and later spinal fusion surgery with screws and plates in my back. I was not able to work after these extensive injury, but it was my fascination with art that really helped me. It was my head injury that that awakened my love for painting. I have taken many courses, read, painted and studied art over the past 13 years. I am writing to you to ask if I could study under you, or you know who would be willing to do this with me. I would be very grateful, I have done water colour, pastel and now abstract expressionism with oil and collage. Thanked you , Anne Hurst

  6. Lise Regimbal says:

    Hello Mr Tanabe,

    I would be surprised if you remembered me as a student at The Banff Centre in the summer of 1980 when Paul Brach and John Will were teaching. However, if I am fortunate enough
    you may have a faint memory of the large scale Toasters and Steamers I painted at the time. For a small town French Canadian girl trying her hand at becoming somekind of a painter, you have definitely made difference in my ” cheminement”.

    Sincere thanks for the guidance and inspiration you have provided me.


  7. Terry (Toru) Idenouye says:

    Seeing the “work of art”was fascinating.
    I am very interested to find out where I could get a copy of video or C.D. of his “work of Art”
    I am representing the Wynford Seniors of the JCCC a group of evacuees interned like Mr. Tanabe in the various interment camp .
    I am am sure our members of the Wynford Seniors would love to see it.

    Terry Toru Idenouye

  8. Andrea says:

    Dear Mr. Idenouye,
    Please contact the Canadian Art Foundation in Toronto at 416 368 8854 in order to get information on obtaining a copy of “Takao Tanabe: A Work of Art”


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