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"Living Treasures" of New York - Frank Taira (1913-2010)


The New York City arts community is one of the most renowned in the world. Yet amidst the richness of cultures, activities, art institutions, landmarks, and the hustle and bustle of life in The Big Apple, are “Living Treasures of New York” – Nikkei senior citizens over the age of 75 who are celebrated artists still living in New York City. Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University is proud to provide you a sampling of some of these Living Treasures.

Slides in this album 

Frank Taira

(b. August 21, 1913, San Francisco, CA; d. July 4, 2010, New York, NY)

Frank Taira was born on August 21, 1913, in San Francisco, California. When his family returned to Japan in 1928, he decided, at the young age of 15, to remain in the United States to pursue ...

Frank Taira
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Crowned King

18" x 24" oil on canvas (1953) “Color makes it lively. It is all in the mind, I didn’t have a model.”

Crowned King (1953)
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Reading Room

40" x 35" oil on canvas (1959) “It’s leaning towards abstract. Focusing the light over the table lights the people reading. Then the books are there. If you close your eyes you see the important people.”

Reading Room (1959)
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Last Stand

30" x 40" oil on canvas (1961)
“This painting is from sketches I made from a demolition site. Housing was being torn down for Lincoln Center. One of the sketches was purchased and appeared in the Lincoln Center bulletin. The painting has an abstract quality – a building being ...

Last Stand (1961)
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30" x 25" oil on canvas (1961)
“I had a studio near Fisherman’s Wharf. The art school was close by. I was going through different techniques, using lines to create the image. The blues were used on impulse, the water deeper than the hazy sky. The buildings are like pen ...

Harbor (1961)
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30" x 40" oil on canvas (1966)
“When you’re young you have a better chance to look at yourself. When you get old … it’s more complicated to paint.”

Self Portrait (1966)
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Cathedral Interior

30" x 40" oil on canvas (1972)
“When I was a young schoolboy, every Sunday I used to go to a Christian church, a big, Caucasian church with high ceilings and stained glass windows. When they (the Caucasians) moved out, a Japanese minister took over. All the young Japanese ...

Cathedral Interior (1972)
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Bow Bridge

22" x 29" oil on canvas (undated)
The Bow Bridge is in New York City’s Central Park. The Park has always been an inspiration to Taira. “I chose to paint realistically because I wanted people to understand my paintings.”

Bow Bridge
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18" x 20" oil on canvas (1979)
This painting is in the Encyclopedia of Living Artists (10th ed.) “My imagination captured the light. The image was suggested by a photo of my daughter. A person just thinking about people she left.”

Alone (1979)
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16" x 20" oil on canvas (1983) “This is a painting of my daughter. At first she posed without anything on her head and I had the colorful towel. All the colors are in harmony.”

Yoshiko (1983)
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25" x 36" oil on canvas (1986)
“The stairway is a place that you go up to pray, so it is kind of like a church. It gives a sense of peace and quietness. It is spiritual, it’s a mystery. The light comes from the top. I was trying ...

Stairway (1986)
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Boy with Pigeon

20" x 17" oil on canvas (1995)
“The pigeon and the boy are so much more alive because of the contrast between them and the background. The background brings out the boy and the pigeon. The darker pigeon and the boy’s flesh are contrasts. Everything is contrasted with something ...

Boy with Pigeon (1995)
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21" x 35" oil on canvas (1992-1996)

Contortionist (1992 - 1996)
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Young Woman with Crown

23" x 32" oil on canvas (1999) This piece appeared in a juried show and publication, Biennale Internazionale Dell’Arte Contemporanea, Florence Italy, 2001.

Young Woman with Crown (1999)
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11" x 14" oil on canvas (2002)
“I was just thinking about two girls trading secrets.”

Secrets (2002)
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Snowing in the Park

16" x 30" oil on canvas (2003)
This painting was done at age 90 when Taira had monocular vision secondary to orbital cancer.

Snowing in the Park (2003)
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Best Wishes on a New Life

10.5" x 14" pen and ink (1952) This piece shows patients on the balcony of their ward, giving a send-off to departing patients by banging whatever was available on the balcony railing.

(NOTE: this drawing and the following four works are all pieces that depict daily life in a TB ...

Best Wishes
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Reading Techniques

16" x 14" (1950)
This work shows Taira’s sense of humor.

Reading Techniques
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The Big Cough

13" x 16" pen and ink (1951)
One might regard it as “the TB cough.”

The Big Cough (5/4/51)
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Some Days I Imagine My Pills Like This

15.5" x 13.5" (1951)
The early treatments for TB involved multiple doses of large pills.

Some Days I Imagine My Pills Like This (5/2/51)
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Rest in Peace

13.5" x 16" watercolor (undated)
Window in the sanatorium

Rest in Peace
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19" x 14" watercolor (1951)

Bullfighter (12/1/51)
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13.25" x 9.5" watercolor (1959)

Observing (1959)
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Outdoor Vendor

11" x 7.5" watercolor (1959)

Outdoor Vendor (1959)
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10.5" x 7.5" watercolor (1983)

Landscape (1983)
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Album Type

online exhibition

APA_Institute — Last modified Aug 08 2019 3:24 p.m.

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