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 Miyuki Tanobe  (1937 - )

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada/Japan      Known for: city genre painting, printmaking, illustration

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Année de la femme - 1975 - Women's Year
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Miyuki Tanobe CM, OQ, RCA (1937) (1) is a distinguished Canadian painter, printmaker and illustrator. She is famous for her unique Japanese style and its adaption to her primary subject – scenes of daily life in Quebec. Her works are in numerous museums and her honors include Canada’s highest, the Order of Canada.

She was born in Morioka, Japan, about 300 miles north of Tokyo. She emigrated to Quebec, Canada in 1971, and settled in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, about 20 miles east of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River; which is still her home.

Her mediums include oil, acrylic, gouache*, watercolor, pastel, silkscreen* and lithograph*. However, her most famous medium is “Nihonga” (2), a fusion of traditional Japanese painting techniques and mediums with modern western influences such as chiaroscuro* and western subject matter.

Tanobe’s subjects include genre*, urban scenes, cityscapes, Quebec customs, folklore, social commentary and humor. Her style could be described as Fauvism*, though it is often referred to as Naïve* or Primitivism*. AskART has some very good illustrations of her typical work.

Her formal art education began with studies at age 11 under Itaru Tanabe (1886 – 1968). Her higher education  includes the Tokyo University of Fine Arts (1956 – 1959), under Chou Ota (1896 – 1958) and Seison Maeda (3), where she obtained her diploma in child and adult education; La Grande Chaumière*, Paris (1962 – 1963); and  the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts*, Paris (1963) where she studied under Roger Chapelain Midy.

Her travels, most of which took place in the 1960s, include France, Italy, Switzerland, England, Spain, Germany, Greece, Kenya, Egypt, Cambodia and India. (4)

In 1959 she became a member of the Japanese exhibition association INTEN (the Society of Professional Painters) (5), which had a chapter for practitioners of Nihonga. In 1994 she was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts*.

In addition to exhibiting with INTEN she has been included in over three dozen other group exhibitions. Among the public venues are the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1974 and 1978 and at the Place des Arts, Montreal in 1978. (6)

She has had over 20 solo exhibitions. The public venues include the Place des Arts, Montreal in 1980, the Joliette Art Museum (Quebec) in 1981 and the Pierre Boucher Museum, Trois-Rivières, Quebec in 1995 (retrospective).

Through the years, venues for her private gallery shows have included the Marlborough Godard Gallery, Toronto; Marlborough Godard Gallery, Montréal; Galerie l'art Français, Montréal; and Galerie Royale, Paris. She has been exhibiting with Jean-Pierre Valentin Gallery, Montreal since 1972.

Tanobe’s works are avidly collected. In addition to being in numerous private and corporate collections, examples are also in most of the major Quebec museums, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Quebec (Quebec City), the Joliette Art Museum, the Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts and La Pulperie Museum (Chicoutimi, Quebec). According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and the Society of Quebec Museums there are 117 of her works in the province’s public collections.

Her honors and awards include one of Canada’s highest honors, appointment as a Member of the Order of Canada (CM) in 2003; and one of Quebec’s highest honors appointment as an Officer of the Order of Quebec in 1995. She also received a Canada Council grant in 1978 and in 1981 received a Canada Council prize for her illustrations in Gilles Vigneault’s book of poetry “Les Gens de Mon Pays” (People of My Country).

In 1999 The Royal Canadian Mint used one of her illustrations, of a Quebec legend, for a commemorative 50 cent coin.

She has illustrated several books including “Quebec: I Love You” (1976), by Miyuki Tanobe; “Canada: I Love You” (1991), by Miyuki Tanobe and Roch Carrier; “Les Gens de Mon Pays” (1980), by Gilles Vigneault; and the 1983 edition of Gabrielle Roy’s 1945 classic “Bonheur d’Occasion” (English title – The Tin Flute).

She is also the subject of the monographs “Tanobe – Signatures” (1980) and “Tanobe” (1988) both by Léo Rosshandler; and of the National Film Board  movie “Ce monde éphémère - Miyuki Tanobe” (1979), by Marc F. Voizard, Stephen Steinhouse and Ian Rankin (7).



(1) The Canadian Heritage Information Network*, and a few other sources encountered doing the research for this biography, use 1939 as her birth date. Jean-Pierre Valentin Gallery (Montreal), her dealer since 1972; "The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction" (2001); and most sources use 1937.

(2.1) “In practice, Nihonga encompasses paintings executed primarily in traditional materials (e.g. ink and glue-based mineral pigments), supports (e.g. paper and silk) and formats (e.g. hanging scroll, hand scroll, screen), although the medium has evolved considerably over the past century (e.g. the use of panels and synthetic pigments). The term, which literally means ‘Japanese painting’, was first coined during the 1880s as a means to distinguish the pictorial practice grounded in the native tradition of “shoga” (calligraphy and painting) from “yoga” (Western-type painting) that employed Western media, formats and modes of representation.”  Source: Page 356 – “Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture” (2001), edited by Sandra Buckley (see AskART book references).

(2.2) Tanobe paints kneeling on the floor in front of the support (panel) which is laid on the floor. She uses a Japanese style brush and hand-mixed powdered pigments. Source: The National Film Board movie “Ce monde éphémère - Miyuki Tanobe” (1979) Courtesy, Jean-Pierre Valentin Gallery.

(3) All artists, teachers, students, influences and associates mentioned in this biography, except those with bracketed birth and death dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(4) Source: Michel Bigué Art Galleries, St-Sauveur, Québec and Toronto, Ontario.

(5) Saiko Nihon Bijutsuin, also called INTEN, was a Japanese art exhibition association. It was established in 1914 as successor to an artist’s association founded in 1898. Source:

(6) The source for all exhibition venues and dates is Jean-Pierre Valentin Gallery (Montreal).

(7) “Ce monde éphémère”: National Film Board translation – My Floating World,  author’s translation – “This Fleeting World”.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.




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