Second Impressions

A few weeks ago K had a meeting to attend in Tokyo. An exhibition of European impressionist art was going on, so we decided to leave early and take in the exhibit before K's meeting in the afternoon. The bus we were taking was late. An accident involving both sides of the expressway between home and Tokyo had closed it to through traffic. When the bus did pick us up, it was forced to take surface highways, with traffic lights all along the route. A bus ride that usually takes a little over an hour turned into two and a half hours. By the time we reached Shibuya-ku, the ward where the museum is located, it was time for K to head for her meeting - no art for her, not even lunch. The exhibit was excellent and I felt very bad for K.

Sunday, the 26th, was the last opportunity to see it, and as it happened, K had business in Tokyo again. This time her appointment was in the morning and we encountered no transportation problems. So, by mid-day her business was done and we were at the Bunkamura museum in the Shibuya-ku section of Tokyo. Bunkamura is a private museum built next to and connected with the Tokyu department store there. They have no permanent collections, but rather book art exhibits from museums which do as well as offer concerts, dance performances, and films.

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This little girl looked as bewildered by the big city as I was.
(click to see the surrounding picture)

The exhibit consisted of eighty paintings by twenty-two artists. They belong to the Pola Museum of Art which is located in Hakone, an area to the west of Tokyo at the foot of Mt Fuji that is famous for its onsen (hot spring) resorts. I reluctantly post a few pics of paintings. They are all wrong of course - the sizes, textures, light, colors. Still, I can't very well write about an art exhibit and not show at least a hint of what I saw.

Renoir - Young girl in a lace hat

I love impressionist art and the Pola has a great collection. There were some ten works by Renior including "Girl in a Lace Hat", which is stunning to see in person. Well, all of them were amazing in person compared to the pictures of them one sees in a book. There were sixteen by Monet. Other familiar names were represented of course - Cezanne, van Gogh, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec. Pontillist paintings by Seurat, Signac, Pisarro, Cross and Petitjean were there too. And there were other artists I was not so familiar with, but found delightful as well such as Redon, Sisley, Sidaner and Bonnard.

There is a connection between European impressionist art and Japanese art. In the late 19th century, Japan was opening up to the world (the Meiji Restoration) and things Japanese were all the rage in Europe. The style of Japanese art with its bold use of primary colors had a big influence on artists in Europe at the time.

One of my favorite artists, Paul Gauguin, had four of his paintings on display, two of them from his days in Tahiti. If you have read my post "The Forgotten Islands" you may recalll that it was Gauguin's works that later brought artist Robert Eskridge to Tahiti and led to his adventures on Manga Reva.

Gauguin - Dog in front of the hut, Tahiti

Paul Gauguin started life as a successful stock broker who painted as a hobby on weekends. He walked away from it all to pursue painting, even though it resulted in losing his wife and family. Edgar Degas bought some of his paintings, and it was money from that which financed his trip to Tahiti where he spent two years.

When K and I had viewed all the paintings, we bought a few items in the gift shop, then went back through the exhibit again, spending more time with the paintings we liked best. (There were several Monets we would have loved to bring home with us.)

Monet - Sunset on Seine in Winter

Outside, on the traffic choked streets, the rain was falling steadily. The sidewalks crowded with people jostling their umbrellas, loud speakers blairing from the huge video screens mounted on sides of the tall buildings, elevated trains roaring by. It was an all out assault on the senses.

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lights, video screens, loud speakers, crowds, traffic, trains, noise - help!

I was happy to leave. But for that afternoon, we had been transported to other places and times, and seen them as colorful impressions through the eyes and minds of artistic geniuses.


Robin said...

gee.. I will look as lost in a city like that too.

Nice pics.. and K must be the pretty lady in the middle the lights, video screens, loud speakers, crowds, traffic, trains, and noise.

FH2O said...

I'm envious - of the opportunity to view such great masterpieces and to have a lovely lady like K. You are one lucky bear!

I know I'll sound mushy to Robin again but I could stand infront of a Renoir or Rembrandt and be in awe and totally moved ...

The Moody Minstrel said...

I love visiting Tokyo...because it reminds me of how much better off I really am living in the country. It's a fun city to visit, but it's a madhouse!

Wow...I had no idea that exhibit was going on! That's a pretty impressive collection! I with I had a chance to see it.

I love the colors Monet used in that "Sunset on Seine in Winter". That painting glows!

Happysurfer said...

....spending more time with the paintings we liked best.
-- I certainly can identify with this.

A wonderful post, happy even - lovely lovely pictures and interesting narrative. Thank you.

Pandabonium said...

Robin, parts of Tokyo are more sane, but Shibuya is a madhouse as MM says. Nice to come home to the lake and farmlands.
Yup. That's K.

FH2O - Lucky bear, yes, and I know it. Painting and music must be experienced first hand to be fully appreciated. The difference is so great in each case (a book print vs an original, a recording vs the live performance) the feelings are profound.

MM - That Monet sunset was one of K's top two favorites. In person, it really does appear to glow. We sat in that room for some time looking at it and another of his sunsets next to it.

Happysurfer - Thanks for your kind words. It was worth the effort to see these works. Few things have such lasting value.

saba said...

one of my dreams : go to Tokyo

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

One year when I was a happy little art student, we took a bus up to Canberra to see a Post-Impressionist exhibition, and I was excited about seeing some 'real' Gauguins. Actually they were smaller than I expected and the colours more mellow. The impression from books which are highly coloured and often incorrectly coloured give a false impression. Yes, you have to see the real thing.
W. PS I paint occasionally - maybe I'm a post-post-impressionist!

Pandabonium said...

Saba - I hope you get visit Japan someday.

W. - post-post-impressionist, that's good. :D Do you paint Fijian subjects?

Don Snabulus said...

You picked a nice Monet. I don't think I've seen that one before. Your range on this blog is always wonderful to behold.

Pandabonium said...

Such kind praise Snabby. Thank you! (No applause, just throw money). :D

Chen said...

I saw lots of bicycles ... (I clicked on the picture of the little girl for a bigger view)
I guess cycling as a mode of transportation is common in Japan?

Pandabonium said...

Yes, lots of bicycles Chen. In Tokyo it is very expensive to own a car, parking being a huge expense. With the transportation system that is available, there is little reason for owning one beyond having a status symbol. (Sadly "status" is a trap which Japanese seem to fall for every time).

I get around mostly by bicycle. Only if it is a long distance or rainy weather do I get into K's car.