Takao Tanabe


Despite the hardships, racism, and degradation of being detained in an internment camp during WWII, Takao Tanabe (b. 1926) would rise to become one of Canada's most accomplished artists of the 20th century.

At the end of WWII, Tanabe began his formal education at the Winnipeg School of Art, with the intention of becoming a sign painter. By the early 1950s, a combination of luck, ambition, and talent brought him to New York City. There he studied with Reuben Tam and Hans Hofmann, absorbing the emerging aesthetic trends of abstract expressionism.

Tanabe's career is marked by his continuous evolution and experimentation with both style and subject matter. After dedicating years to abstraction (ranging from gestural to hard-edge), Tanabe began a very gradual transition towards figuration in the 1970s, which led him to focus on atmospheric Canadian landscapes in the decades following.

This early painting comes after a period of intense scholarship in New York / London, serving as a vigorous example of the artist's abstraction from the late 1950s. For just over 5 years Tanabe strengthens a distinctive abstract language characterized by ellipses, elongated half-moons and thick gestural brushstrokes on muted or sparse backgrounds. Click here to see another example from this period.  

In this elegant untitled work, a neutral board hosts bold, frenetic strokes that fill the picture plane, alternating between linear slashes and smooth contours. Tanabe expertly balances shades of canary yellow, ivory, and black with softer pastels such as sage and ash rose in this dynamic composition. 

In a later chapter of his fascinating career Tanabe overtly merges abstraction with figuration. In this work, do you see a reference to representation? Is the yellow yolk-like form in the upper center of the composition, an element of abstraction...or the sun about to descend behind a sloping hill? Regardless, this is an impactful and elegant example of Tanabe's from the 1950's. 

Tanabe's work can be found in numerous important collections across Canada and beyond including the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Glenbow Museum (Calgary), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), and the Tate Museum, U.K

Questions about this piece? Contact us or call +1.416.704.1720


Canada, 1958

Casein on board

Signed and dated by the artist

21.75"H 29.75"W (work)

27.25"H 32.25"W (framed)

Framed with museum glass

Very good condition.

Note: $10,500 CAD

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