Connections: 150 years of Modern Art in Japan and France

Nov. 14(Sat), 2020 - Apr. 4(Sun), 2021

Japanese craft art and ukiyo-e prints became an important source of inspiration for European artists such as Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh in the late 19th and early 20th century. The phenomenon, called Japonisme and centered mainly in France, had far-reaching influence on traditional European academic art and design. At the same time, under Japan’s policy of Westernization, Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924) and a number of Japanese art students who studied in France provided the foundation of modern art in Japan in the manner of French academic practices. In the Taisho period (1912 – 1926), Kishida Ryusei (1891-1929) and many other young talented painters who were not able to study in France satisfied their passion for French art through accounts in contemporary Japanese magazines and art books. The literary magazine Shirakaba (white birch) and other publications stirred fascination with van Gogh, for example. The stunning avant-garde works of the artists returning from France further stimulated the imagination of the Japanese artists who had not been abroad.

Japan and France were vital to each other in explorations of new standards of beauty in the turbulent times of modernization. This exhibition examines the nature of art historical interactions between the two countries during this period of exchange of people, ideas, and things. The exhibition also contemplates, through works by the interculturally influenced artists of the time, the appeal and misconceptions of different cultures arising from romantic visions or misunderstandings.


Claude Monet, Landscape, Varengeville, 1882, Pola Museum of Art


Yamaguchi Akira, New Sights of Tokyo: Shiba Tower, 2014, Mizuma Art Gallery
©YAMAGUCHI Akira, Courtesy of Mizuma Art Gallery


Kuroda Seiki, The Fields, 1907, Pola Museum of Art


Morimura Yasumasa, Portrait (Van Gogh), 1985, Takamatsu Art Museum


Vincent van Gogh, The Gleize Bridge over the Vigueirat Canal, 1888, Pola Museum of Art


Paul Cézanne, Sugar Bowl, Pears, and Tablecloth, 1893-1894, Pola Museum of Art