LOT 004

1926 -

Nootka 1/91: in Hanna Channel
acrylic on canvas
signed and on verso signed, titled and dated 1991
27 x 59 in, 68.6 x 149.9 cm

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000 CAD

Sold for: $451,250

Preview at:

Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto, 1991
Private Collection, United Kingdom

Takao Tanabe has contributed to the visual arts of Canada for more than seven decades. He is an artist’s artist—working both as a printmaker and a painter, and also serving as an important arts educator and advocate. Tanabe was born near Prince Rupert on British Columbia’s northern coast, far from any major art centres. The small village of Seal Cove was primarily a fishing town and packing centre, and at the time a largely Japanese Canadian community. The distinct atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest and all its natural richness would become an important influence in Tanabe’s realist art from the 1980s to the present day. His iconic coastal landscapes evoke a distinctive magisterial power, with Nootka 1/91: in Hanna Channel being a most brilliant example.

Tanabe’s family moved to Vancouver in 1937. During World War II, he was interned with other Japanese Canadians in the interior of BC. By the mid-1940s, Tanabe was in Winnipeg. He soon discovered that the Winnipeg School of Art would accept him without a high-school diploma, and his artistic education and relationship with art began. The next few decades of education and exploration took Tanabe across Canada and to the United States, England and Japan, but his depictions of his home province are arguably his most celebrated contributions to Canadian art.

The realist paintings of coastal BC are based on Tanabe’s abstracted reality of the landscapes as captured through photographs or sketching outdoors, then painted in the studio. To sensitively capture in paint the atmospheric activity of the ocean and its many mood swings, as Tanabe does so successfully, an artist must have seen, smelled and experienced the Pacific Ocean. Our painting Nootka 1/91: in Hanna Channel depicts a sparkling day, one that you dream about all season. Nootka Sound is on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island and is also the inspiration for the related and sought-after woodcut Nootka Afternoon (figure 1). In both painting and print, the simplified masses of the coastal landscape provide natural shelter, serving as a breakwater, to create a calm and serene channel. The brilliant afternoon light dances across the lapping waves, and the painting radiates an atmosphere that only an artist as accomplished as Tanabe can create.

Tanabe’s life and work was the focus of a major retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 2005. In the exhibition catalogue, Ian Thom writes of the realist landscapes:

The work seems at one with the man, though it has an apparent ease that belies its complex painting method and the hours and days of painstaking application of paint to create an image that seems whispered, or perhaps wished, onto the surface of the canvas. These paintings are deeply considered and deeply felt, and they are fitting metaphors for Tanabe himself, an artist who has travelled his aesthetic journey with passion and grace.[1]

Nootka 1/91: in Hanna Channel returns to Canada after time abroad in a private collection in the United Kingdom.

1. Ian M. Thom, ed., Takao Tanabe (Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, in assoc. with Douglas & McIntyre, 2005), exhibition catalogue, 7.

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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