Made his living washing dishes and working as a peanut vendor, while studying English in night classes. He also studied painting on his own until he was able to arrange formal lessons with the Dutch painter, Fokko Tadama. He had his first solo showing in an exhibition room at the Seattle Public Library in 1915 and presented works at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition later that same year. Over the next two years, his first nude portraits received much negative criticism. He continued to exhibit, winning a few awards, but he decided that the art market in the United States wasn’t receptive to his work and moved to Paris in 1920. There, he exhibited at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, the Salon d’Automne, and the Salon des Tuileries. In 1924, eight of his paintings were acquired by Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni and Prince Yasuhiko Asaka, who were in France studying at the École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr. The following year, he sold a painting to the Musée du Luxembourg. In 1939, following the outbreak of World War II, most of the Japanese in France were compelled to return to Japan but, having an American wife, he was able to stay in Paris. He died during the German Occupation. Most of his works are now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Saitama. His papers are held at the Archives of American Art.
Japanese-born artist. As soon as he completed his primary education, Tanaka left home and emigrated to Seattle in 1904