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Japan’s Love for Impressionism: from Monet to Renoir
8 October, 2015
The Bundeskunsthalle is hosting the first European presentation of the most important Japanese collections of early Modernism.
Until now, the western world has been largely unaware of the fact that French Modernist paintings were also collected in the Far Eastern island kingdom. Over 100 first-rate works by French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, such as Monet, Manet, Gauguin, Pissarro, Cézanne, Signac, and Bonnard to name but a few make up the core of the show.
This selection is supplemented by impressive works created by Japanese artists before 1920, who, inspired by the French artists, developed paintings in the Western style, thus paving the way for modern Japanese art. France and Japan – The Beginnings The exhibition portrays the history of the mutual artistic influence between Japan and Europe – from a new perspective.
After the treaty of 1855 enabled Japan to enter into international trade, there was also an opening in the field of art. European artists started discovering Japanese woodcuts from 1860 onwards. However, a hundred years ago, Japanese collectors and successful entrepreneurs, such as Kōjirō Matsukata and Magosaburō Ōhara had already started building some of the most remarkable Impressionist collections in the world. Until the last decades of the 20th century, further exquisite collections developed and found their way into famous Japanese museums, such as the POLA Museum of Art and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum.
The main aim of the exhibition that runs until February is to show these collections which are to date unknown in Europe. In addition, it gives insights into the composition of Japanese Impressionist collections and portrays the historical background that played a role in their evolvement.
The works on display illustrate the mutual inspiration between Japanese and French art. Since the unlocking of Japan in the middle of the 19 th century, French painters had been fascinated by Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts, which not only had a strong impact on their works, but also promoted Japonism. Likewise Western painting arrived in Japan shortly after the rise of the Japan craze in Europe. Japanese painters residing in France on the brink of the 20 th century imported academic painting en plein air and Impressionism to Japan. Ultimately, these developments also help to shed some light on the phenomenon of the Japanese love of Impressionist painting.