TANAKA Ryohei (1933 - 2019) - copperplate etching

During his lifetime, TANAKA Ryohei released over 760 different editions. Prolific though he was, today copies of his exquisite work are harder and harder to find so please enjoy the ones below that I have recently sourced.

The artist didn’t start making etchings until 1963. He was born, lived, and spent his entire life in Takatsuki, a city almost exactly halfway between Kyoto and Osaka. Takatsuki and the slower pace of suburban life informed his tranquil oeuvre, which mainly consists of extraordinarily detailed observations of structures-- barns, houses, temples, or landscapes --trees, birds in flight, pathways.

He thought of his work as a meditation and seemed genuinely surprised at his world renown. He would always marvel when I shared the compliments bestowed on his work from my clients. “ I just go in the studio every morning and put in a full day’s work”, he would murmur bashfully.

A true Kansai person, Tanaka never enjoyed coming to Tokyo. If he did have to come to the capital, he would always make sure to take an early morning bullet train so that he could see to his business and then take the train right back so as to spend the night in his own bed. I recall one time however when circumstances forced him to spend the night in Tokyo, and my father invited him out for dinner. We ordered lobster and I watched with fascination as Tanaka san, with a surgeon’s precision, extracted every piece of lobster meat, wielding the lobster pick just as if it were an etching needle.


That same attention to detail is apparent in every one of his prints.


Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, San Francisco
Cincinnati Art Museum
Honolulu Academy of Arts
Cleveland Art Museum
Singapore National Museum
Joseph H. Hirshhorn Collection

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The Tolman Collection of New York


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