I’ve seen ads on the train promoting a (somewhat) impressionist exhibition in the Setagaya Museum of Arts. The collection from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts can be seen in Tokyo in the summer, then it’s gonna be put on exhibit in Osaka for the fall and Nagoya during the winter.
Pretty much as soon as I entered the gallery the very first peace already had me impressed: it was an original of the Hokusai Manga. You know, the Hokusai. The guy who made ukiyoe ranging from waves to ladies having fun with octopuses. But he was far from alone to represent Japan in the exhibition. There was a good number of Hiroshige works too (many of them from the 100 Famous Views of Edo), though Van Gogh’s copies of his works weren’t on exhibit, there were only photos of them next to Hiroshige’s originals.
I’m not surprised at all that the late-19th century European art scene fell in love with Japanese art. It was such a different take on the same subject (capturing the moment) that the naturally rebellious mindset of artists was bound to catch fire from it. It’s a central motif in Looking East to show how the various artists around the world incorporated the new taste from the Land of the Rising Sun in their works.
I think the main piece of the exhibition is Monet’s La Japonaise, a painting of his wife wearing a really pretty kimono, in a pose that I’d swear I’ve seen on traditional Japanese ukiyoe before, surrounded by fans with also Japanese-style pictures drawn on them. It wasn’t the only high-profile portrait in the collection though, as (obviously among others) Van Gogh’s La Berceuse was on exhibit as well.
I’m not such a huge fan of paintings of people though, so I spent much more time looking at the landscapes around the end of the gallery. Let me just say that it was overwhelming for me. I love impressionist landscapes, and the way these paintings emphasized the elements picked up from the ukiyoes’ style just made it all the better. Water lilies floating on ponds, lights reflecting under a bridge, oh and the harbors. Norton’s Night just stunned me, leaving me speechless (except for “wow”). In general the section with landscapes left a deep impression (haha) in me.
I can only recommend checking out the exhibition if you get a chance (though the museum isn’t exactly downtown).