Yasushi Tanaka

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.
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