The career of Takao Tanabe, RCA, incredibly, spans nearly 70 years. Born in 1926 in Prince Rupert, Tanabe is one of Canada’s
most important and enduring painters. In 2013, Tanabe received the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Visual Arts. In 1999, he was awarded the Order of Canada not only for his contribution to visual arts but also for his support of younger artists. Tanabe has also received the Order of British Columbia, a Governor General’s Award, two honorary doctorates, and membership in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Tanabe began as an abstract painter. However, he is most well known for his Canadian landscapes, primarily of British Columbia. His minimalist acrylics are characteristically executed in thin washes with a subtle translucence; avoiding brush marks, his paintings seem to float on the surface. Tanabe is preoccupied with vast empty spaces. He has mused, “What I want is this completely unoccupied, pristine land, as though I’m the first person to see it. It’s lonely, it’s mysterious, it has wonderful appeal to me. I feel a great kinship to it.” In 2013 at age 87, Tanabe said he was still experimenting, and wanted “to learn how to paint the most brilliant, mysterious, appealing painting.”
Tanabe attended Winnipeg School of Art (1946-49), Brooklyn Museum School of Art (1951-52), Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, UK (1953-54), and studied sumi-e and calligraphy in Tokyo (1959-60). He worked at The Banff Centre until 1980.
Recent solo exhibitions: The Seasons, Ottawa Art Gallery, Paul Kuhn Gallery (2011); Chronicles of Form and Place: Works on Paper, Burnaby Art Gallery (2011); The Early Years, 1951 to 1965, Mira Goddard Gallery, Toronto (2010). Recent group exhibitions: Parade, Concordia University (2011); Calgary Collects, Art Gallery of Calgary (2011); An Autobiography of our Collection, Vancouver Art Gallery (2011); Landscape / Cityscape, Mira Goddard Gallery (2010).
Tanabe’s work appears in many collections: Canada Council Art Bank; National Gallery of Canada; The Banff Centre; Art Gallery of Ontario; Glenbow Museum; Ottawa Art Gallery; Vancouver Art Gallery; University of British Columbia; American Airlines; Amoco Canada; Bank of Canada; Mobil Oil; Canadian Pacific; Shell Canada Collection.