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 Yasushi Tanaka  (1886 - 1941)

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Lived/Active: Washington / Unknown Country/France/Japan      Known for: nudes, landscape, still life, portrait

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Yasushi Tanaka
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Yasushi Tanaka was born May 13, 1886 in Saitana, Japan. In 1904 he moved to Seattle, Washington. After graduating high school in Seattle he studied at the Seattle Fine Art Association and exhibited and taught there from 1901 to 1920. His first exhibition was at the Washington Museum in Seattle in 1912. In Seattle, in 1914, he had his first one-man show where he exhibited cubist and futurist-influenced works.

In 1917 Tanaka married American author Louise Gebhard Cann who published several books and articles on French artists. Cann was also acquainted with James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway.

In 1920 Tanaka had a farewell exhibition and moved to Paris. It is not known whether he ever returned to Japan or the United States.

Tanaka exhibited often in Paris at the Society Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Salon des Automne and Salon des Tuileries. In 1922 and 1924 Tanaka had solo-exhibitions at the Galerie de Marsan for which a fine illustrated catalogue was produced. Other exhibits include the Galerie Bernheim, Galerie Simonson, Galerie Devambez, Galerie Carmine and Galerie Druet. He also exhibited at the Japanese-Club in London in 1924.

His work consists of landscapes, still-lifes and portraits, but he became most well known for his nudes. French photographer Imogen Cunningham created a platinum print portrait of Tanaka (c.1915).

The Tokyo Museum has acquired one of his paintings.
The date of his death is unknown.


Biography from Martin-Zambito Fine Art:
Yasushi Tanaka was Seattle’s earliest Modernist painter with recorded abstract/non-objective paintings dating as early as 1915.

Born in Japan, Tanaka arrived in Seattle around 1904 and attended Broadway High School. His only formal art training was with Seattle painter, Fokko Tadama. Largely self taught, he credited the Seattle Public Library’s collection of art books for his education and exposure to various art movements.

Tanaka was known as a “Futurist” in the local press alluding to his interest in Modern and abstract art. He produced paintings that tried to convey sensory experiences such as sounds and smells. Some of these exhibited paintings from the teens include “Hissing of a Silk Shirt”, “Pragmatic Evils of Superficial Realities” and “Suds & Music”.

His earliest Seattle paintings reflect an interest in the works of Whistler as well as movements such as Cubism and Post-Impressionism. His dominant theme was the female nude both in the natural landscape and within interior settings.

Tanaka ‘s complete exhibition history is not known but he did exhibit five paintings at the Corcoran Gallery in 1919. He was also a frequent exhibitor with the Seattle Fine Arts Society and taught classes in Life and Outdoor painting. He also exhibited in the Salons of Paris.

In 1920, Tanaka moved to Paris where his style became more realistic and displayed a pronounced influence of the French master, Renoir.

In 1997 Tanaka was the subject of a major Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan.

His work has recently been exhibited at the Hiroshima Museum of Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum and the Oita Prefectural Art Hall, all in Japan.
His work is in the collection of the Museum of History & Industry in Seattle.

David F. Martin
Martin-Zambito Fine Art

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