Color, Line, Form: Matisse, Degas, Chagall


The first exhibition by the Pola Art Museum to investigate paintings from “materials”!

What kind of colors and lines are used to create a shape? – Painters are always facing such concern and are creating using the characteristics of each material. This exhibition introduces the works through the point of view from the painting materials such as oil paints, watercolors and pastels to the support materials such as canvas. By looking at the paintings from different angles, we treat the paintings as the “material” to grasp the intentions each painter had when selecting each material.

Key points

1. Exhibiting abundant collections of various materials by Degas, Matisse, Chagall and many more!

Pastel paintings are weaker to environmental changes compared to watercolor and oil paintings, thus we only exhibit for a short period of time usually. This exhibition exhibits the Japan’s largest Degas collection of nine works, Chagall’s six works and all twenty works of Matisse’s “Jazz”, the full collection of our “works painted on papers”.
2. Re-introducing painting materials… pastel, oil paints, gouache and many more!

Exhibiting the actual samples to explain what each material is made of and how they are used.

Pastel 714 color set by La Maison du Pastel Edgar Degas used the pastels made by this company.

Pastel 714 color set by La Maison du Pastel, Edgar Degas used the pastels made by this company.

3. “Visual guidebook” to facilitate your time at the exhibition!

A free of charge leaflet that summarize each material’s characteristic in an easy-to-understand manner is available at the museum. (number of prints are limited)

Visual guidebook

From Pigment to Paint, Meguro Museum of Art

Exhibition structure

1. Color lines: pastel

Paints are made of powdery “pigments” that determines the color and “medium” to knead the pigments. Pastel uses only small amount of medium, so it reflects the color of the pigments accurately. Although acting together with impressionist painters who favored bright colors, Degas valued classical sketch and considered himself as “a color painter utilizing lines”. For him, pastels that enable depicting pigments’ colors accurately were the ideal material.

Edgar Degas, Two Dancers Resting, ca. 1900-1905
Edgar Degas, Two Dancers Resting, ca. 1900-1905

A Degas’ work depicting the dancer’s flexible posing. Instead of using a brush, he used his hands and fingers with pastels to freely express contour lines’ thickness and density.

Edouard Manet, Woman on a Bench
Edouard Manet, Woman on a Bench, 1879

2. Layering colors: watercolors

Watercolor is a paint using a water-soluble medium that could be divided to two types, “transparent watercolor” and “opaque watercolor”. Signac, Dufy and Chagall favored this bright and light expression possible with watercolors.

Paul Signac, Les Sables d'Olonnes

Paul Signac, Les Sables d'Olonnes, 1929 Watercolor and pencil on paper

Using white surface of a paper, pale colors are lightly brushed to express rippling water surface. Showing the colors of the layer beneath and the paper is the characteristics of transparent watercolor.


Marc Chagall, Purim, Skech for a Mural Painting, ca. 1916-1917
Gouache on paper mounted on cardboard
© ADAGP, Paris & SPDA, Tokyo, 2013, Chagall®

Opaque watercolor hides the colors of the layer beneath and the paper and creates concrete coloring. Chagall favored this opaque watercolor for his color-rich works.

2. Shaping colors: Matisse’s cutout picture

Matisse, a great painter of the twentieth century spent his lifetime in the quest for “harmony between lines and colors”. One of the answers he reached was to cutout a motif from a gouache colored paper with a scissor and place them on other medium to create a “cutout picture”. You can enjoy 20 works of “Jazz”, an illustrated book using the cutout pictures.
“Lines” and “colors” do not match in harmony with the conventional method. Matisse’s such concern was solved with “cutout picture”. An illustrated book, “Jazz” was made using stencil template created by cutout picture and painted with the same colors of the cutout picture.

Henri Matisse, The Circus,Plate 2 from Jazz
Henri Matisse, The Circus,Plate 2 from Jazz, 1947 Stencil
Henri Matisse, Icarus, Plate 8 from Jazz, 1947 Stencil