National Museum of Women in the Arts
Tomie Ohtake
November 21 1913 - present
Photograph of Tomie Ohtake, courtesy of the Tomie Ohtake Foundation, São Paulo, Brazil
Place of Birth:
Brazilian, Japanese
Phonetic Spelling:
TOH-mee oh-TAH-kee
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting, Sculpture
Artistic Role(s):
Mosaicist, Muralist, Painter, Printmaker, Sculptor
Abstraction, Abstract Expressionism
Artist's Biography:
A Brazilian national of Japanese origin, Tomie Ohtake is a seminal figure in contemporary Brazilian art; she is credited, in part, with introducing the sparse and organic aesthetics of Japanese art to Brazil’s rich artistic heritage. Born in Kyoto, she spent her youth in Japan until 1936, when growing concern over the impending Sino-Japanese War compelled her family to emigrate. Shortly after arriving in Brazil, she married and settled in São Paulo where she lived a quiet, middle-class life for many years before pursuing a career in painting.

While Ohtake traces her interest in art back to calligraphy and drawing classes she took as an elementary school student in Japan, her creative talents went untapped until, in her late thirties, she was unaccountably seized by an urge to paint. Her first efforts were simple landscapes and genre paintings, but, encouraged by art critics and friends, she began to experiment and quickly developed the unique style of abstraction for which she is now known.

Covering her canvas with dense layers of restrained brushstrokes, Ohtake forms simple, sinuous geometries that emerge from ambiguous planes of color. Together, her method and sense of composition imbue each work with suggestions of substance, weight, and motion. She has steadfastly pursued this aesthetic over the course of her long career, resisting artistic trends emanating from Europe and the United States. Her groundbreaking work, along with that of colleagues such as Manabu Mabe, Takashu Fukushima, and Iberê Camargo, has paved the way for future generations of Brazilian artists.

Place(s) of Residence:
S�o Paulo
Where Trained/Schools:
Private lessons
Related Visual Artists:
student of Keiya Sugano colleague of Manabu Mabe colleague of Takashu Fukushima colleague of Iberê Camargo influenced by Mark Rothko
Fellowships, grants and awards:
National Prize of the Plastic Arts, Ministry of Culture, Brasília, Brazil (1995) Ordem Do Rio Branco Decoration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brasília, Brazil (1988) Woman of the Year in Art Prize, National Women's Council of Brazil and Brazilian Academy of Letters, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1987)
Earliest exhibition:
12 Pintores Abstratos, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (1957)
NMWA exhibition(s):
ULTRAMODERN: The Art of Contemporary Brazil
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Latin American Women Artists, 1915-1995
Artist retrospective(s):
Tomie Ohtake, Institute Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, Brazil (2001) Tomie Ohtake: Exposição Retrospectiva, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2000-2001) Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan (1988)
Untitled, 1993