Born in Prince Rupert on September 16, 1926, Takao Tanabe moved to Vancouver at age eleven. As one of 22,000 people of Japanese ancestry who were forcibly evacuated from the B.C. Coast during World War II, he took refuge with his family at the Lemon Creek internment camp in the Kootenays. Two years later he left to join his older siblings to do farm work as indentured labourers near Winnipeg. Without a high school diploma, he studied at the Winnipeg School of Art, initially under Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald (1890-1956), then under New Westminster-born Joseph Plaskett (b. 1918) who became a mentor and friend. Tanabe later studied in New York, London and Tokyo.

Tanabe returned to Vancouver in 1952, befriending printer Robert Reid. As a book designer, Tanabe founded Periwinkle Press in Vancouver in 1956 for poetry and broadsheets. That same year he married his first wife, Patricia Anne White. In 1957 he had a one-person show at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Along with Jane Rule and others, he co-founded the Arts Club. He taught at the Vancouver School of Art (1962-1965; 1967-1968) and at the Banff School of Fine Arts (1973-1980) where he was also a program director. He returned to Vancouver in 1980 and later built himself a studio at Errington, near Parksville on Vancouver Island. His first major cross-Canada retrospective, opening in 2005 at the Vancouver Art Gallery, also generated a coffee table art book, Takao Tanabe (Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Great Victoria, 2005) with text by Ian M. Thom, Roald Nasgaard, Nancy Tousley and Jeffrey Spalding. Thom's contribution is a biographical essay. Tanabe became a member of the Order of BC (1993) and the Order of Canada (1999). In conjunction with the Alcuin Society, Robert (Bob) Reid provided the text for an appreciate volume of Tanabe's work in 2010.

Photo: Takao Tanabe in Seal Cove (now Prince Rupert, BC), circa 1935-36

Takao Tanabe: Sometime Printer (Alcuin Society $185), a limited edition of Tanabe's work as a letterpress designer, edited by Robert Reid

[BCBW 2010] "Japanese" "Art" "Design"