Born in Tokyo in 1929, Masaaki Yamada holds a unique position in the history of Japanese modern art for his philosophical approach towards abstract painting. Yamada began his career as a self-taught artist amidst the chaos of postwar society. He created some 5,000 paintings during his lifetime, which are divided into three groups: Still-Life (1948-55), Work (1956-95), and Color (1997-2010).
Starting from his first series Still-Life, in which he gradually disassembled the forms of still-life into their basic components of lines, shapes, and colors, Yamada’s work developed in the mid-1950s into his second and most influential series, Work. Featuring motifs such as stripes, crosses, and grids, Work demonstrated Yamada’s persistently experimental approach to composition and color theories. During the period in which he undertook his final body of work, Color, Yamada filled the entire picture plane with a single shade of color, revealing his absolute focus on the pursuit of flatness in his paintings
During his lifetime, Yamada held annual solo exhibitions in Tokyo from 1969 to 1997, and also participated in a number of epoch-making museum exhibitions both in Japan and overseas, including the Biennale de Sao Paulo held in 1987. He continued to gain increasing recognition for his work in the years following his death in 2010, and his first large scale retrospectives were held in 2016 at The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and Kyoto.