Japanese artist Ryuji Tanaka was born in 1927 in Hyogo Prefecture. He joined the important Gutai group only for two years, between 1965 and 1967. Especially his artistic pre-Gutai period is a remarkable one, for he is one of the rare artists who practice the techniques of traditional Japanese painting, Nihon-ga. Instead of common oil paint, the Nihon-ga technique is based on mineral pigments in different colours, fixed with glue like 'scrolls'.
In 1948 and 1949 Tanaka helped form the Pan-Real Art Association along with Mikami Makoto, Yamazaki Takashi, Hoshino Shingo, Ohno Hidetaka and Shimomura Ryonosuke. The Pan-Real Art Association was an avant-garde art group striving for a revitalization of the conventional world of Nihon-ga, traditional Japanese painting. "Pan" meaning "all," and "real" signifying "realism", "Pan-Real" can be interpreted as art expressions rooted in real society. In those days, the primary motifs used in Nihon-ga were flowers and birds, and artists were expected to create works of art that would evoke rich emotions. "Pan-Real Art Association" was established in order to question and confront such conventionalized aesthetics and feudalistic art circles that were based on the conventional apprenticeship system, and it tried to pursue a new method of expression from a new perspective.
In 1952 Tanaka finished his post-graduate course at Kyoto City University of Arts. In 1960 the artist received the New Art Association prize at the 7th New Art Association Exhibition and became an associate of New Art Association. Two years later, Tanaka received the Outstanding Associate Prize at the 9th New Art Association Exhibition. That same year, Tanaka received the Competition Prize of Japanese painting at the 5th Contemporary Art Exhibition of Japan.
Between 1962 and 1966 Tanaka produced a number of works working with mineral pigments, often numbered and entitled Sei. In these mineral works, the material always flashes and brightens up the darker background of the canvas.
1965 was an important year for Tanaka as he became a member of the Gutai Art Association. In July 1965 Tanaka took part in the 15th Gutai Art Exhibition at the Gutai Pinacotheca, together with also first participants Kinashi Aine, Nabekura Takehiro, Sakamoto Masay and Yoshida Minoru, as well as then-nonmembers Horio Sadaharu, Imai Norio, Imanaka Kumiko, Kanno Seiko, Kitani Shigeki, Naohara Michimasa, Nasaka Senkichirō, and Tai Satoshi. In 1967 Tanaka already left the Gutai group and started working independent.