Time and Transformation: Selected Works from the Collection
Dec. 8(Sat), 2018 - Mar. 17(Sun), 2018
Paintings, static by definition, actually express ‘time’ in various ways. For a painting to present a slice of the living, moving, world in which the artist lives, the artist must capture the scene of a dynamic moment and record the atmosphere and concrete events of trends of the times, such as of city life and modernization.
This exhibition introduces paintings on the theme of time in the collection of the Pola Museum of Art. Viewers will see paintings that express ephemeral fleeting moments as well as works that suggest eternity, and book illustrations that convey the time of an imaginary narrative.
1. The Sense of a Fleeting Moment
The Impressionist painters departed from the mythological and historical themes of traditional academism, seeking instead to complete their canvases with scenes from reality. However, no matter how ardently an artist would try to capture the present moment, it becomes a thing of the past as soon as it is placed on canvas. Artists, therefore, aimed to paint the atmosphere of the moment rather than to record the actual landscape. To avoid clear depiction they would use quick brushstrokes that expressed a sense of color and light on the canvas. Even if the landscapes were of something of the past, traces engraved on the canvas would convey a sense of the vibrancy of the moment.
Claude Monet, Haystacks at Giverny, 1884
Alfred Sisley, Banks of the Loing River, Morning, 1891
Takahashi Yuichi, Cormorant Fishermen, 1892
2. Portraits of Modern Life
Artists captured the atmosphere of their time in paintings conveying the liveliness of the period, including depictions of the latest technology, architecture, vehicles, and trendy fashions. When it came to the time of war, war as subject of painting expressed the disturbing social atmosphere and the complex feelings of the people who experienced it. Painters who were evacuated or fled from war zones continued painting despite the alarming situation. This section introduces paintings by 19th and 20th century artists that can well be described as portraits of their time.
Pierre Auguste Renoir, Girl in Lace Hat, 1891
Edouard Manet, Woman on a Bench, 1879
Claude Monet、La Promenade, 1875
Henri Rousseau, View of the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero, 1896-1898
The beauty of flowers has captivated people and been a subject of painting since ancient times. As the Western phrase Carpe diem (Latin: seize the day) indicates, knowing that flowers fade over the course of time, artists sought to emphasize the fragile nature of their fleeting beauty. Regardless of whether following Eastern and Western traditions, painters explored hill and field seeking the myriad expressions of flowers for their paintings. Arrangements of flowers in vases indoors also became important as motif, since painters could place flowers according to compositions and configurations they desired. Through use of color and brushstroke, artists could capture the fragile beauty or sometimes mysterious appearance of flowers.
3. Carpe Diem –Seize the Day
Vincent van Gogh, Flower Vase with Thistles, 1890
Pierre Bonnard, Stairs with Mimosa, ca. 1946
Claude Monet, Water Lily Pond, 1899
Henri Matisse, Chinese Vase, 1922
4. Eternal Beauty - Being and Time
Human lifetime is limited and extremely brief in the context of the long history reaching to ancient times. Paintings, however, can express the eternal continuum of the cycles of nature and the repetition of human activity. Georges Seurat’s Low Tide at Grandcamp depicts a boat on the beach at ebb tide. The artist captured a certain moment that allows us to feel the dynamism of the repetitions of nature. Sugiyama Yasushi’s Water, inspired by scenery the artist encountered in the Middle East, symbolizes the flow of eternal time against the wide spread of an azure river in the daily activity of drawing water.
Georges Seurat, Low Tide at Grandcamp, 1885
5. Imaginary Time - literature and narrative
Historically, images were created to elucidate religious and mythological narratives. Twentieth century painters aimed for creative innovation related to richly imaginative stories and poetry. Georges Rouault took inspiration from Christian Bible stories. Marc Chagall based his ‘symphonic poetry’ world of vibrant color on ancient epic poetry. Painting is an instantaneous expression of the moment, but it is also an art of the infinite and the eternal.