A Century of Art Journey through 100 Masterpieces

Oct. 1(Sun), 2017 - Mar. 11(Sun), 2018


The Pola Museum of Art is proud to present A Century of Art Journey through 100 Masterpieces. This exhibition features the Museum collection and celebrates our 15th anniversary.
The Pola Museum of Art collection is centered around works gathered over a 40-year period by Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930 – 2000), son of the founder of the Pola Orbis Group. The collection of around 10,000 items spans a wide range of genres including Western painting, Japanese Western-style painting, Japanese-style painting, prints, sculpture, Oriental ceramics, Japanese modern and contemporary ceramics, glasswork, and cosmetic utensils and other objects. Particularly noteworthy is the extensive and comprehensive collection of important paintings by 19th and 20th century artists.
This exhibition introduces 71 Western paintings and 29 Japanese Western-style paintings carefully selected from the collection. The 100 paintings are organized according to 20 themes having to do with artists and artistic movements, subject matter, and historical period. They represent an excursion through the currents of around 100 years of Western and Japanese modern painting, from the mid-nineteenth century, through the turn of the century, and across the 20th century.
A Century of Art Journey through 100 Masterpieces marks the first time since the opening of the Museum that so many of the Museum’s important paintings have been on view together all at once.


Henri Matisse, The Lute, oil on canvas, 1943


Pierre Auguste Renoir, Girl in a Lace Hat, oil on canvas, 1891


Claude Monet, Water Lily Pond, oil on canvas, 1899


Paul Cézanne, Sugar Bowl, Pears, and Tablecloth, oil on canvas, 1893-1894


Okada Saburosuke, Kimono with Iris Pattern, oil on cardboard mounted on canvas, 1927
1860s– 1870s

Chapter 1.The Beginnings of Impressionism: walks in nature

Around the mid-nineteenth century, painters started to leave their studios behind to experience and paint the world of nature outdoors. The paintings Corot, Courbet, and others produced in the Fontainebleau Forest inspired Impressionist artists to follow. And it is well known that Boudin, a seascape painter, trained a young Monet in plein air painting. The contemporary themes, vivid colors, and flat planes Manet incorporated in his painting in the 1860s served as a major influence on Impressionist painters and later painters of the 20th century.


Chapter 2.Monet and Modernism: clouds and smokestacks

Under Boudin, Monet painted themes such as the movement of a shimmering river surface or white clouds in the sky. In the latter half of the 1870s, he painted the transformation of Paris in the industrial revolution, and scenes of modern life in suburban landscapes. He captured the new motifs of transition and symbols of the new and modern such as steam billowing from locomotives at a busy station and smoke streaming out of factory chimneys along the Seine.


Chapter 3.Cezanne and Degas: explorations in figure representation

Degas painted portraits of people close to him, and produced pastel paintings and sculptures depicting ballet dancers. He was focused on capturing a momentary movement of the human form. Cezanne’s landscapes, still lifes, and portraits, employed the human figure, however, as a motif to explore composition. His works pursued the spatial relation and motion of the human form, such as the portrait of his son as Harlequin, or the particular arrangement of nudes on a tableau.


Chapter 4.From Monet to Seurat: the allure of light

Monet’s paintings of the 1880s depict nature with the Impressionist techniques of quick brushstrokes and bright color. Cezanne, using more controlled brushstrokes, conveyed the vivid sunlight of the South of France. Seurat, incorporating contemporary theory of optical science, devised a system of short brush strokes of bright color, called Pointillism. It was called Neo-Impressionism in the 8th Impressionist Exhibition in 1886. Pissarro employed the method for a short period.


Chapter 5.Manet and Renoir: the beauty of women

Manet and Renoir both excelled at depicting the human form, particularly beautiful women. Manet produced vividly colored pastels with the female figure in profile, and having powdery white skin. Renoir’s soft brushstrokes and delicate color brought out the beauty variously of sensuous nudes, wholesome women at work, young girls in their transparent beauty, and attractive women dressing.

1880s – 1890s

Chapter 6.Samurai in Western painting: the beginnings of Modern Western painting in Japan

Oil painting represented a new field of art in Japan, introduced from the West along with other features of modernization during the late Tokugawa and early Meiji period. Two painters active in the early period, Koyama Shotaro and Asai Chu, studied with Italian oil painter Antonio Fontanesi in Japan. Japanese painters at this time continued traditional themes of flowers and birds, landscapes, and portraits, but these two artists forged ahead with paintings depicting daily life and samurai in hunting scenes.


Chapter 7.Beyond Impressionism: the challenges of Post-Impressionism

The Post-Impressionist painters moved away from the quick brushstrokes and vivid colors of the Impressionists to find their own expression. Cezanne explored composition through the still life. Gauguin also produced still lifes but gradually became interested in cultures unaffected by modernization. Van Gogh sought to explore emotions through bold brushstrokes and colors, while Lautrec’s depictions of Parisians is characterized by elongated lines.


Chapter 8.Monet: the allure of water

In the 1890s, Monet became absorbed in a series of paintings of a single subject, such as the Rouen Cathedral, depicted variously under the changing effects of light. At the same time, he was also interested in mastering depiction of water – not only capture its reflections, but also to grasp a sense of depth and the movement of aquatic plants. He built a pond in the garden of his home in Giverny and repeatedly painted the water lilies floating there, having created his own ideal scene with a Japanese-style bridge. In time, his eye directed to the lilies and the water surface, he painted differing appearance of the pond, depending on changes in light.


Chapter 9.Turn of the Century: transformations in art

The arts were in a state of flux in the years around the turn of the century. Renoir and Degas had become recognized masters, and neo-Impressionists such as Signac and Symbolists like Redon were also on the scene. R
ousseau’s paintings of new landscapes of Paris and his imaginary jungles took painting beyond the world of reality. Attracted by the Paris World Exposition in 1900, artists like Picasso and Kuroda Seiki gravitated to Paris to absorb the new currents in art and to create their own unique styles.

1900s– 1910s

Chapter 10.Fauvism and Cubism: adventures in color and form

A number of new art movements appear at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Fauvism of Vlaminck and Braque, based on expression in bold color, and Picasso’s Cubism, geometric representation of simultaneous multiple viewpoints, were pivotal in breaking with the past. The divergence and influence of the two styles can be detected in the paintings of Chagall.


Chapter 11.Bonjour! Paris: Japanese Artists in Paris

At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of Japanese artists moved to Paris, center of the art world at the time. They were attracted to lively surburban as well as urban and city center scenes. Foujita, who arrived in the city in 1913, began by painting the desolate landscapes around the Paris city gates. Oka Shikanosuke’s paintings depict the serene atmosphere of suburban canals, while Saeki Yuzo, who was greatly influenced by Utrillo, portrayed vibrant city life in textures redolent of building walls and city street corners.

1910s – 1920s

Chapter 12.The Female Figure: West and East

The female figure is a time-honored motif in painting. Paintings by Bonnard and Picasso depicting their wives convey an air of intimacy. Paintings by Japanese artists are influenced by images of women in Western art. Kishida Ryusei and Murayama Kaita, influenced by Western classical art, paticularly Renaissance painting, painted women close to them in a mysterious atomosphere. Kuniyoshi Yasuo studied composition from the paintings of Cezanne and Nakamura Tsune learned techniques of expressing the human form and soft brushwork from Renoir’s paintings.


Chapter 13.Still Lifes: roses and cabbages

The still life was a fitting theme for artists to explore composition and texture. Wada Eisaku liked to observe and precisely paint roses, a flower introduced to Japan from Europe in modern times. Koide Narashige also painted quite a number of still lifes, but his preferred subjects were ordinary fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes and containers that he painted taking advantage of the properties of oil paint and produced a sense of texture with careful painting and bright colors.


Chapter 14.Painting the Elegance of Japan: Japanese Western-style Painting

Japanese artists who studied in the West gained knowledge of the latest trends from exhibitions of their contemporaries, but they also had the opportunity to experience Old Master paintings in the museums and to study under contemporary painters. On returning to Japan, they used Western techniques to paint Oriental beauty. Fujishima Takeji painted a model dressed in Chinese costume in profile, in the manner of Renaissance painting. Okada Saburosuke’s depiction in oil painting of a woman in kimono expressed Japanese traditional aesthetic taste. Umehara Ryuzaburo was influenced by Western art, particularly the paintings of his admired Renoir.


Chapter 15.Ecole de Paris: foreign artists in Paris

During this period, young artists from around the world occupied apartments and studios and worked in the Montmartre and Montparnasse sections of Paris. As friends, they produced many portraits of each other. Modigliani, using simplified shapes, created an elegant personal style. Soutine imparted a fresh, or raw, sense of presence to human figures with his bold colors and brushstrokes. Laurencin and Pascin created their particular atmospheres, Laurencin with pale color tone and Pascin with delicate line.


Chapter 16.Rising Influence of Surrealism: attraction of the uncanny

European Surrealism became entrenched in the literature and art in the 1920s and 1930s. De Chirico and Dali were major proponents of the movement and the new trend was almost instantaneously conveyed to Japan through magazines and rapidly advancing 20th century means of information transmission. Stunned by the unprecedented themes, Japanese artists such as Koga Harue and Migishi Kotaro were inspired to produce paintings with incredible images.

1930s – 1940s

Chapter 17.Matisse and Picasso: a plentiful bounty

This period is marked by the mature paintings of artists who appeared on the scene from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Nabis painter Bonnard, who had been painting interior themes and Paris landscapes, moved to the South of France.
Fauvist artists Matisse and Dufy reached their color manipulation goals and were able to produce paintings with bold yet harmonious color schemes. Picasso and Braque went beyond Cubism to each develop their own continued journeys in art.


Chapter 18.Painters and War: turbulent times

War presented a great dilemma and decisive moment for artists. Umehara and Kishida were stimulated by stays in Manchuria. Chagall and Miro chose exile, and continued their painting in difficulty but away from the battlefields. Foujita, criticized after the war for his participation as war artist, left Japan for the United States and then settled back in Paris where he developed new artistic directions. While artists may not have been able to control their fate during wartime, they did continue to paint.


Chapter 19.Post-war Painting: between realism and abstraction

Among various post-war tendencies, the issue of realism versus abstraction may be most prominent. Ben Nicholson led British expression with his deliberate lines, geometric shapes, and restrained colors. In Japan, the issue is evident in the paintings of, for example, Kumagai Morikazu, with his simplified forms, flat color planes and contours, or Hayashi Takeshi whose paintings are characterized by thick intense brushwork, and Kojima Zenzaburo’s landscapes with their flat color planes and symbolized forms.


Chapter 20.Personal Visions and Personal Expression

In the 1960s and 1970s, artists who had been active before the war created monumental art in their own characteristic style. Many unique works appeared that expressed and reflected the individual artist’s internal and emotional world. Chagall painted the ceiling of the Paris Opera Garnier in 1964. Paul Delvaux created a monumental painting based on memories of his childhood. Oka Shikanosuke’s still life paintings of eccentric flowers are reminiscent of paintings by Odilon Redon.