Yesterday I went downtown Tokyo to see an impressionist exhibition from the Orsay in the National Art Center.

Orsay exhibition at the National Art Center

I’m not a huge art nerd. Honestly, I doubt I’d have recognized Manet’s Fifer before seeing it yesterday. But still, the exhibition had a good number of paintings that even I knew. Though I guess that’s to be expected considering the quite impressive (haha) artist lineup.

The gallery was thematically divided into a few rooms, such as “Manet’s new style”, “Realisms”, “The Nude” and “Landscapes”, among others. While the large majority of the paintings are representative pieces of the late-19th century impressionism, it was the sections of Realisms and Landscapes where I spent the most time.

I’m not so fond of portraits, and my high school textbooks were full of pictures of historical paintings too. On the other hand, I found the realistic depictions of everyday moments and landscapes really immersive. I could just look at Caillebotte’s Floor Scrapers and hear the noise of the street behind the window, feel the old-house scent of the room and the smell of the booze next to the fireplace. Or Monet’s Port at Argenteuil or The Magpie and almost feel the wind, the sunshine, hear the birds or the crushing snow under my feet.

Then there were the depictions of farm life. I myself have only ever lived in cities and I’ve never worked the fields, but my father’s enthusiastic stories about his childhood left vivid images in me about village life. The paintings just fit in so well with those and what I’ve seen for myself when I lived in Hungary.

I was wondering if the Japanese could feel the same when looking at those paintings, considering Japan doesn’t have landscapes like those. I was also watching the people looking at Gerome’s Jerusalem, and no one seemed to notice the shadow of the three crosses in the foreground.

There was also the Asparagus, also by Monet. I only mention this because its story made me laugh.