Yasushi Tanaka was born May 13, 1886 in the Saitama Prefecture, Japan. In 1904, he moved to Seattle, Washington. He graduated from Broadway High School in Seattle and worked in manual labor while he acquainted himself with the local Seattle art scene. He was highly interested in the Contemporary Art movements that succeeded the Impressionist period in Europe and the US. Tanaka first exhibited at the Washington Museum in Seattle in 1912, but didn't receive local recognition until his one man show of cubist and futurist-influenced paintings in 1914 sponsored by Seattle Fine Arts Society and his participation in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. By 1915, Tanaka had established himself as a respected art teacher at the Seattle Fine Arts Society.
He met Louise Gebhard Cann, a published poet and playwright, in 1911 at a lecture on Cubism and Futurism. Cann was very well known and acquainted with other writers such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway. In 1917, the couple married and caused quite a scandal among Seattle society due to their different ethnicities. At the same time, Tanaka's works, depicting female nudes, had also caused a stir among the local conservative Seattle art scene forcing him to defend his work to the Seattle Fine Arts Society.
In 1920, the couple decided to move to Paris and 5,000 people attended his farewell Seattle exhibition. Tanaka exhibited often 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. In 1940, Tanaka left to Japan and also exhibited there. He died in 1941.
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).
Exhibited: Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1911; Washington Museum, Seattle, 1912; Seattle Fine Arts Society, 1914; Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915; Galerie de Marsan, Paris, 1922, 1924; Japanese-Club, London, 1940.
Works Held: Tokyo Museum.
Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 by Gordon H. Chang, Mark Dean Johnson, Paul J. Karlstrom