Tomie Ohtake, 1913–2015

The preeminent Brazilian artist of her generation has died

Tomie Ohtake, Untitled, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Courtesy Nara Roesler, São Paulo

The Brazilian artist, Tomie Ohtake, has died, O Globo reports. Ohtake, who was to become one of the preeminent Brazilian artists of her generation, came to live in the country by accident. When she was 23 she was on a visit from her native Japan to Brazil to see her brother who was living in the São Paulo at the time, and found her return home impossible after Japan entered World War II in 1937. Settling in São Paulo, she began to make art, developing her abstract style and explorations of colour, texture and form across painting, sculpture and printmaking. She had her first exhibition relatively late in her career, in 1957, at the Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna and in 1961 she participated in the Bienal de São Paulo. In 2001 the São Paulo arts complex Instituto Tomie Ohtake opened, the landmark architecture designed by the artist's son, architect Ruy Ohtake. In 2006 she was awarded the Brazilian Order of Cultural Merit.

Reviewing a retrospective of Ohtake's work in 2013 for ArtReview, critic Claire Rigby wrote:

'It’s hard to overstate the impact of Tomie Ohtake’s oeuvre on São Paulo, or the aptness of its abstract beauty in this most visually eclectic, jumbled of cities. If you’re familiar with them, works by the ninety-nine-year-old painter, sculptor and printmaker are everywhere in the city: in private homes and as prints in institutions and businesses, and in public works that include lavish mosaics on the metrô, and a stunning sculptural monument to the city’s Japanese immigration beside the Centro Cultural São Paulo.'

12 February 2015