Taiyō no tō - Tarō Okamoto

Tarō Okamoto: biography of an influential Japanese art artist

Tarō Okamoto (岡本 太郎, Okamoto Tarō) was a Japanese painter, sculptor and multidisciplinary artist, famous for his colourful and bold works. Born in 1911 in Kawasaki, Japan, Okamoto began painting at an early age and quickly developed a unique style that reflected his interests in modern Western art and Japanese artistic traditions.

Okamoto studied art at Tokyo Imperial University before travelling to Europe to study modern art. He arrived in Paris in December 1929. He exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Surindépendants in 1932. He studied at the Sorbonne from 1930 to 1940. His primary goal was to paint, but he was also interested in ethnology, philosophy and sociology. During his stay in France, he met Pablo Picasso, Georges Bataille, Max Ernst, Marcel Mauss, etc. In 1937, Pierre Courthion published a small monograph illustrated in black and white in the collection Peintres d’aujourd’hui (Painters of Today) published by G.L.M. After having practised abstraction in the Abstraction-Création group in 1933-1934, he turned to surrealistic figuration, the main motifs of which are butterflies and ribbons. After his return to Japan in 1939, Okamoto began to produce artworks that were both provocative and socially engaged. His work reflected his opposition to Japanese imperialism and the war, as well as his critique of traditional social and artistic norms.

During World War II, Okamoto was recruited to work as a propaganda artist for the Japanese government, but he refused and chose to hide his art rather than destroy it. After the end of the war, he became a vocal critic of art censorship and encouraged artists to produce free and expressive works.

In 1951, Okamoto created his famous work “Tower of the Sun (太陽の塔, Taiyō no tō), a totem pole symbol of the 1970 Osaka World Expo, which immediately attracted public attention. This massive sun-shaped structure became a symbol of the optimism and creativity of post-war Japan. Okamoto continued to produce influential artworks throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including “Myth of Tomorrow”, a mural depicting the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

During his lifetime, Okamoto was exposed to many different artistic styles, ranging from abstract and surrealist art to Japanese folk art and traditional arts such as Chinese ink painting. This variety of influences led to a unique artistic style that reflected both the social and political concerns of his time and his own personal experiences.

Tarō Okamoto died in 1996 at the age of 84, but his work continues to be exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. He is considered one of the most influential and innovative artists in the history of Japanese art, having left an indelible mark on the art and culture of Japan and the world.

Scroll to Top