Japan’s love for impressionism

Boy in Flowers, 1876, Édouard Manet, The National Museum of Western Art Tokyo

While preparing for our vacation to Japan this summer I checked out several art museums we would like to visit. One is the Bridgestone Museum of Art. Unfortunately the museum is closed for renovation. A part of the collection is on view at an exhibition in Germany, in the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn. Among the paintings are works with flowers and gardens, a reason to write a review about it.

Water Lilies, 1908, Claude Monet, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum Japan / Bridgeman Images

The exhibition Japan’s love for impressionism. From Monet to Renoir shows 100 impressionist masterpieces from leading Japanese art collections. On view until 21 February 2016. The exhibition portrays the history of the mutual artistic influence between Japan and Europe – from a new perspective.

France & Japan, the beginnings

Japanese industrials started collecting art works from Impressionists at the end of the 19th century. This development began with the industrialist Kojiro Matsukata, who was a close friend of Claude Monet.

Takeko Kuroki, Claude Monet and his family with Monets ‘Houses in the Snow and Mount Kolsaas’, Uehara Museum of Modern Art

Kōjirō Matsukata (the President of Kawasaki Shipbuilding Company) and Magosaburō Ōhara (the Founder of the Kuraray Chemical Compagny) builded some of the most remarkable Impressionist collections in the world.

Until the last decades of the 20th century, further exquisite collections developed and found their way into famous Japanese museums, such as the POLA Museum of Art and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum.

French & Japanese Impressionists

At the heart of the exhibition are masterpieces by French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, among them Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Gauguin, Bonnard, Pissarro, Renoir, Signac, Sisley and van Gogh.

This selection is supplemented by impressive works created by Japanese artists before 1920, who, inspired by the French artists, developed paintings in the Western style, thus paving the way for modern Japanese art.

On the Boat, 1887, Claude Monet, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Matsukata Collection

A great comparison between two works are these paintings by Claude Monet and the Japanese painter Shigeru Aoki.

Belle-Île, Rain Effect 1886, Claude Monet, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation, Tokyo
Seascape, Mera, 
, Shigeru Aoki, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation, Tokyo

A unique presentation of outstanding French art which we are able to show collectively for the first time in Europe – Rein Wolfs, Director of the Bundeskunsthalle

Morning Glory (Vollubilis), 1920, Torajiro Kojima, Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki

Japan’s Love – A Correlation

The works on display illustrate the mutual inspiration between Japanese and French art. Since the unlocking of Japan in the middle of the 19th century, French painters had been fascinated by Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts, which not only had a strong impact on their works, but also promoted Japonism.

Likewise Western painting arrived in Japan shortly after the rise of the Japan craze in Europe. Japanese painters residing in France on the brink of the 20th century imported academic painting en plein air and Impressionism to Japan. Ultimately, these developments also help to shed some light on the phenomenon of the Japanese love of Impressionist painting.


Pond of Villa d’Este, Tivoli, 1909, Takeshi Fujishima, Tokyo University of Arts, The University Art Museum Tokyo

See the website Bundeskunsthalle Bonn for more information about the exhibition and all activities.


Looking for Travel tips to Japan

It’s been 15 years since my last visit to Japan, that was a little while ago. We are going to visit family in Nagasaki and Sendai and make stops on the way travelling from South to North. I am open for tips of hidden treasures, like museums and (private) gardens. Please share them with me in your comments. Thank you!


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Robyn Haynes says:

    Thanks for an interesting post. I love Monet but was unaware of Japanese enthusiasm for Impressionism

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Robyn. I knew the Japanese have a really nice Van Gogh collection, but so many Impressionsits in big museums in Japan is quite impressive. I like it how Kuniyoshi influenced the Impressionists and on the other hand how the European painters influenced the Japanese painters!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        A diffusion of cultures.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. BunKaryudo says:

    It was interesting to read about the love of French impressionist art in Japan. There were some beautiful paintings shown here.

    By the way, let me wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment and a warm Holiday season for you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

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