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2014 Honorary Doctor of Letters Recipient

Takao Tanabe

Takao Tanabe
Takao Tanabe

Over his long career, Takao Tanabe has gained acclaim as one of Canada’s most important painters. The son of a commercial fisherman, Tanabe was born in Prince Rupert in 1926 and summered in fishing camps on the Skeena River. He was interned as a Japanese alien during World War II. He studied at the Winnipeg School of Art from 1946-49 before going to New York, where he continued studies at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. After a summer at the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1953, Tanabe went to the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, England and then to Tokyo University in Japan.

Since 1949, Tanabe has exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally, and is represented in the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and many other public and private collections. For his enormous contribution to the arts, Tanabe has been honoured with the Order of British Columbia, the Order of Canada, and the Governor General’s Award, among many others.

Tanabe’s abstract paintings of the 1950s were succeeded in the early 1960s by Japanese-influenced ink drawings. Later based in New York City, he painted hard-edge geometric abstracts in strong colours. These evolved in the 1970s into semi-abstract landscapes dominated by wide horizons, influenced by Tanabe’s encounters with the Hudson River Valley and the Canadian prairie and foothills.

Tanabe moved to Vancouver Island in 1980 where he continues to paint in his studio. His quiet, light-bathed landscapes reflect his interest in Zen Buddhism.

Following a decade as head of the art program and artist-in-residence at the Banff Centre, he returned to British Columbia in 1980, moving to Parksville where he still maintains an active studio practice.