2006/03/25

Arts and Flowers

Last Tuesday, K attended some internationalization lectures in Mito City and I tagged along as it was held next door to the Ibaraki Museum of Modern Art, which is right on Lake Senba, which in turn is adjacent to Kairakuen park and the ume festival.

My first stop was the museum. Though I had been there before, there were two paintings in the their permanent collection which I had missed - a Renoir and a Monet. They were also having a special exhibit of Japanese art depicting heros and heroines in Japanese history and folklore. This was to be the last day.

As I approached the door, an American man walked up and said "konichiwa". He introduced himself as Tod, working for the Ibaraki International Association, and asked if I was there to see the exhibit. I was. He asked if I had a ticket yet - I didn't - and then told me happened to have an extra one and gave it to me.

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Ume trees in front of the Ibaraki Museum of Modern Art

The museum, which opened in 1988, has interesting architecture and a good collection of Japanese modern art including some by Tsune Nakamura (1887-1924) who lived in Ibaraki and whose house is on the grounds of the museum.

The Renoir is "Portrait of Madamoiselle Francois" painted in 1917, the same year as Girl with a Lace Hat, which I saw in Tokyo last month.

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Mademoiselle Francois by Renoir


The Monet was painted in 1886 and titled "The Grotto of Port-Domois". Monet painted it during his stay on Belle Ile, a small island off the coast of France. It is an excellent example of his work. At first I didn't understand why I had not heard of it before, but later discovered that it had been in a private collection before being aquired by the museum.

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The Grotto of Port-Domois by Claude Monet

The colors of the water are in deep blues and greens. Monet captured the way the light played on and in the water. It is mesmerizing. I spent a lot of time in front of the painting at varying distances. I found it to be best viewed at about 5 meters, 15 feet. I really love it.

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Portrait Taira Takanori, Warrior and Poet (1922) by Tomoto Kobori

The special exhibit that was closing after today was of Japanese art depicting heroes in Japanese stories and history through the 12th century. Samurai mostly. The paintings were done within the last century and a half, many of them on either large folding silk screens or scrolls, with some of the more recent ones on canvas. I spent an hour and a half in there that morning.

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Kobuntei villa in Kairakuen park as seen across Lake Senba


Then I walked around Lake Senba to Kairakuen park, which took about 45 minutes. The views of the ume trees across the lake were superb. The sky was clear and the temp in the mid or high 60's. The park was very busy as it was a holiday (spring equinox). At Kairakuen, I spoke with an older Japanese woman (who was curious about this "gaijin" coming to Ume Matsuri) about the ume blossoms. I had a nice bento lunch, and enjoyed the trees which were in full bloom - better than last week. There were some people in Edo period costumes roaming around, which was cool. I found one tree I had not seen before that was mostly white blossoms, but had some branches with deep pink flowers on it.

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Pink apricot blossoms on a white tree.

When K was done with the lectures, she came out with a ticket to the museum. It turns out Tod was a speaker in the morning at the same event and as it was the special exhibit's last day, they gave everyone at the lectures a ticket. As it was mid-afternoon, we had plenty of time, so we went through the museum (2nd time for me, but I was happy to see it all again).

One of the paintings I admired was made up of two scrolls hanging side by side. One showed a woman bowing down and facing it an old man with a staff and closed eyes. I admired the economy of lines in the scroll of the old man and was fascinated by the juxtaposition of the two. The woman was painted in full, bright colors. The man, just grays it seemed and with a minimum of lines and paint, yet he was a complete looking figure with a lot of depth. Extraordinary work I thought. An example of "less is more". None of the signs are in English in the museum, so I was in the dark about what it was about. When K saw it she read the explanation about it, but did not remember "the rest of the story" as I then immediately did. The scrolls depict the daughter of Kagekiyo finding her father. K just thought is was an old story, which is is, but it is also based on history.

The Kamakura period (1185-1333) started when the Genji clan ousted the Taira clan and set up their own military government just South of present day Tokyo, and Japan fell under control of the Shoguns for several centuries. The daughter of Kagekiyo, who was the highest ranking warrior and leader of the Taira, fled after the defeat of her father. Kagekiyo himself gouged his own eyes out after his defeat, and was exiled to Kyushu in Western Japan, where his daughter later found him.

K just thought it was about the Noh play, but I remembered that it is based on a true story. Why? Because the daughter fled to THIS area, where a temple I found a year ago that was built in 1189 now stands. You can read about it in my post Further Back In Time in the May archives.

I really felt it was serendipitous that I would be attracted to that art and then find out it was based on a story connected to my own neighborhood and which I had written about in the blog. Maybe it is just that my subconscious made the connection. Anyway, it was a neat experience.

Another interesting thing happened to K, who discovered that the last 13 water color paintings in the exhibit depicting scenes from famous "Heike" tales (Heike is another name for the Taira clan which held high offices in the 12th century and clashed with other clans such as the Genji), were done by one of her favorite artists. She did not realize it first because she did not know that he did this kind of art. He is world famous for illustrated children's books. The artist? Mitsumasa Anno - author and illustrator of "Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar", "Anno's Journey", and many others. These paintings were really exquisite and K has ordered a book about them.

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A pair of Pintail Ducks (Anus Acuta)

Next month the cherry trees that line the paths by Lake Senba will be in bloom. I'm looking forward to going back for a stroll around the lake.

10 comments:

J. Apricot said...

Pretty photos, especially I like the pic of pink ume blossoms on a white ume tree.

There are a lot of stories about the members of the Heike clan who survived the defeat. They interest me.

YD said...

Neat! I agree with you.

From your post, I can imagine the mesmerizing experience of appreciating the delicate works of the artists. Personally I somehow always feel a sense of being transported back in time, into the paintings, when I stared at the paintings long enough. I wonder whether you feel the illusion slightly as well?

The Grotto of Port-Domois is done so beautifully. Painting water is one of the hardest skill, and he did it with such skills!

and ahh... Heike tales! It is interesting to appreciate the narratiave style of the Heike and its presence in Japanese art and drama. Did you do another post about it? If not I would be waiting excitedly for your future post! :-)

Thanks so much for sharing the beauty in life.

Happysurfer said...

Dear Pandabonium, yet another wonderful post. Thank you. The first picture looks like an impressionist painting itself. Great photography there. And the piece by Monet is simply breathtaking. Imagine being there in person taking in the view. Must be an awesome experience!

Japanese paintings are fascinating to me for their detail and colours. They exude a certain softness. Nice. Thanks too for the background info.

Your observation of the two scrolls is very interesting. I believe art also comprises clever placement of the pieces. "Less is more" is an intriguing perspective, applicable to many aspects of life itself.

That's an enchanting view of Kobuntei villa from a distance. I didn't realise the lake is this big.

Pink apricot blossoms on a white tree reminds me of the ugly duckling in that something odd can turn out to be something beautiful. Nature's own little prank, perhaps? A pretty picture.

Thank you again.

Pandabonium said...

j.apricot, perhaps the heroism of the Heike as they lost in battles is the basis for Japan's tradition of paying special homage to military losers throughout history.

YD, I didn't get a feeling of going back in time, but I did think of what it was like to be at that cliff and see the shifting light and colors in the water.
I haven't posted about the Heike - other than the post I referenced. Perhaps I'll do one when K's book of Anno's paintings arrives.

Happysurfer - glad you liked the photos. The museum does has beautiful architecture and landscaping and the setting on Lake Senba is perfect. The pink and white tree was no doubt produced by grafting. I don't know about such things. Sure was beautiful.
Thank you!

FH2O said...

I too have not seen the The Grotto of Port-Domois by Monet before and it's simply amazing to look at even at that 'thumbnail' scale. Alas it didn't enlarge when I clicked on it!

Pandabonium said...

Sorry FH2O - I have been searching for a decent picture of it, but all the large ones I've come across are flawed by the lighting they were made under which created white reflective dots all over the picture - ruining it. If I find a good one, I'll post it.

thanks for dropping by.

The Moody Minstrel said...

So you had the pleasure of meeting Tod, eh? Was he wearing his trademark bowtie? He and I sometimes play together in a Dixieland combo. (In fact, he invited me to play on Saturday, but I couldn't because of Seishin's big concert on Sunday. Maybe that ticket he gave you was originally intended for me!)

With all this talk about the war between the Heike (Taira) and the Minamoto (Genji), which led to the latter setting up the first of Japan's shogunates, one commonly misunderstood point should be mentioned. The names "Genji" and "Minamoto" (both written the same way in kanji) were generic, artificial clan names given to sons of the imperial family that were later declared to be commoners (usually because the mother wasn't favored for one reason or another. For more info, read the Tale of Genji). However, they still maintained ties to the emperor and were usually still quite loyal to him. The fact of the matter is that the Minamoto clan fought to defend the current emperor from the Heike, who were threatening to overthrow his line and replace it with their own. After the Minamoto won, the emperor asked them to administer the country on his behalf because he no longer had the means to do it. Every new shogunate that followed over the centuries from that time onward claimed to be ruling in the name of the emperor (while often bullying him into giving them his blessing) until the Meiji Restoration at the end of the 19th century, when direct imperial rulership was restored.

So you see, the emperor was never really overthrown. He just had some pretty arrogant regents! ;-)

Pandabonium said...

MM - Tod wasn't wearing a bow tie. He had been conducting a workshop and had been giving out tickets at that, so had some left over. It was the last day of the exhibit.

Thanks for the Heike info. Most interesting.

agus said...

I love The Groto as well! It looks almost 3D, real and alive!

Robin said...

Spring is coming.. and this weekend is the Sakura Flower weekend, if my memories are correct.

Nice pics.. I like the pair of Pintail Ducks The name Anus Acuta sounds weird..