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[Interview report] The exhibition “Land of Admiration Brittany” is held at the National Museum of Western Art. What did Monet and Gauguin gain in France’s inner “foreign country”?

From the late 19th century to the 20th century, painters from around the world visited the Brittany region in northwestern France to work on their works. The exhibition "Brittany, the land of admiration – A foreign land seen by Monet, Gauguin, Seiki Kuroda, etc." will be held at the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno, Tokyo. It's inside.
The exhibition will be held from Saturday, March 18, 2023 to Sunday, June 11, 2023.

Since I participated in the press preview, I will report on the state of the venue.

Venue entrance

Exhibition view

Exhibition view

Installation view, Paul Gauguin, Peasants of Brittany, 1894, oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay (Paris)

Installation view, Lucien Simon <<Burning Ground>> around 1917, Oil on canvas, Ohara Museum of Art

Keiichiro Kume, Late Autumn, 1892, oil on canvas, Kume Museum of Art

What is "Brittany", the inner country of France that artists around the world admired?

The varied and majestic nature, ancient megalithic remains, medieval and early-modern Christian monuments, and the simple and religious lifestyle of the people who speak the Celtic language of Breton. The Brittany region, which is located in the northwest of France and has a peninsula protruding into the Atlantic Ocean, was independent as the Kingdom of Brittany until the 16th century.

A “foreign country” within France that has preserved its unique landscape and culture even after being annexed by France. With the advent of Romanticism in the 19th century, many artists seeking new themes set their sights on Brittany.

In this exhibition, "Brittany, the Land of Admiration – Seen by Monet, Gauguin, Seiki Kuroda, and Others", we focus on the period from the late 19th century to the early 20th century that fascinated painters, including paintings, drawings, prints, About 160 items such as posters will be exhibited. We are exploring what each painter sought and found in this foreign land. The works on display were collected from more than 30 collections in Japan and two overseas museums.

Chapter 1 "Brittany Found: A Journey to a Foreign Country"

The exhibition consists of four chapters.

Chapter 1, "Brittany Discovered: A Journey to a Foreign Country," explores what images of Brittany have been popularized by Romantic painters since they "discovered" Brittany in the early 19th century. It introduces works born out of the trend of "picturesque tours" (travels to find picturesque landscapes in rural areas), including the watercolor paintings of British landscape painter William Turner.

William Turner, Nantes, 1829, watercolor, Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, Nantes Historical Museum

Alphonse Mucha Left: "Erika's Flower on the Quay" Right: "Thistle on the Dune", 1902, Color Lithograph, OGATA Collection

Georges Meunier on the right Railway Poster: Pont-Aven, River at High Tide 1914, color lithograph, Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka (Suntory Poster Collection)

While the idealization and stylization of the exotic image of Brittany, represented by female figures wearing koif (headdress) and wearing ethnic costumes, were overflowing with posters for the masses, Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet From the works of the traveling Impressionist generation, we can see that they faced the unvarnished nature of Brittany with a sincere attitude.

Eugène Boudin, Coast and Ship of Daoulas, 1870-73, Oil on canvas, Pola Museum of Art

Of particular note are Monet's Cave of Paul-Domois (1886) and Beryl of the Storm (1886).

In the fall of 1886, Monet spent two and a half months on Berrill Island, known for its wild scenery off the southern coast of the Brittany Peninsula. This is two of them.

Claude Monet, The Grotto of Paul-Domois, 1886, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki

Claude Monet, Beryl in the Storm, 1886, oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay (Paris)

It depicts a symmetrical landscape of calm sea and stormy sea. Grotto of Paul-Domois has a gentle touch and is relatively rhythmic, but in Beryl the Storm, the brush is applied wildly, as if one's own physical senses were possessed in a storm. It's as if Monet's experience is engraved in the painting, such as being there.

From the 1890s, Monet began presenting a series of paintings in an attempt to capture moments in the ever-changing light and atmosphere on canvas. It is thought that it may have been an opportunity to deepen the

Chapter 2 "Sensitivity nurtured by the climate: Gauguin, the Pont-Aven school and the spirit of the land"

Chapter 2, "Sensitivity Nurtured by the Climate: Gauguin, the School of Pont-Aven, and the Spirit of the Land," exhibits the works of Paul Gauguin and other painters who stayed in the small village of Pont-Aven in the southwest of Brittany.

Chapter 2 Exhibition scenery, Gauguin's works are lined up in a row.

Gauguin repeatedly stayed in Brittany from 1886 to 1894 to escape the hardships of life in Paris. It seems that he deepened his thoughts on the "wild things, primitive things" he wanted.

Paul Gauguin, Bathing in Bois d'Amour's Mill, 1886, oil on canvas, Hiroshima Museum of Art

There are 12 works by Gauguin (10 paintings and 2 prints), which are one of the highlights of this exhibition. From Bois d'Amour's Watermill Bathers (1886), which is arranged chronologically and retains the Impressionist style of Camille Pissarro, he uses simplified forms and colors to depict the real world and inner images. I was able to trace the transition of his style, such as Brittany Girls Standing by the Sea (1889), which shows the maturity of the synthesisist style integrated above.

Paul Gauguin, Brittany Girls Standing on the Beach, 1889, oil on canvas, The National Museum of Western Art (Matsukata Collection)

"Brittany Girls Standing on the Seashore" depicts two girls holding hands and staring at the painter. The “wild and primitive things” that Gauguin himself was trying to find in this land are reflected in the figures of peasant children who endure labor and poverty, such as their strong, big legs and simple clothes. It is represented symbolically in a hypothetical form.

Chapter 3 "Taking Roots in the Land: Painters Who Continued to Stare at Brittany"

In Chapter 3, "Putting Roots in the Land: Painters Who Continued to Observe Brittany," Brittany became a tourist destination and a resort area from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Pay attention to the painter who made it his hometown.

From the Henri Riviere series "The Fairyland of Time": "Full Moon" 1901, color lithograph, Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Bandaijima Museum *Exhibition until 5/7 (Sun)

Henri Riviere From the series "Landscapes of Brittany": "Roney Bay" 1891, polychrome woodcut, National Museum of Western Art

Inspired by ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Henri Riviere, who was a driving force behind fin-de-siècle Japonisme, taught himself to produce multicolored woodblock prints. Did Rivière project an image of another “foreign country”, Japan, into the idyllic scene of Brittany? It is interesting that he translated Brittany into Japanese and drew it as if it were in Japan.

A comprehensive series of 40 woodblock prints, Landscapes of Brittany , produced between 1890 and 1894, is not only eye-catching with its delicate color gradation, but also has a composition reminiscent of Hokusai. It felt familiar somehow.

Maurice Denis, Young Mother, 1919, oil on canvas, The National Museum of Western Art (Matsukata Collection)

Maurice Denis, Ship with Flower Decoration, 1921, oil on canvas, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art

Maurice Denis, Bathing, 1920, oil on canvas, The National Museum of Western Art (Matsukata Collection)

Maurice Denis, who founded the Nabis school, was a painter who focused on the promotion of religious art, and because he was a devout Christian, he is said to have resonated with the spiritual climate of Brittany, which was deeply rooted in faith. In the exhibition, works such as Young Mother (1919), which depict a family living in Brittany in accordance with Christian iconographic traditions, caught my attention.

Also, from the image of paradise on earth where reality and fiction overlap, such as Bathing (1920), which projected the sea of ancient Greece on the coast of Brittany, the influence of classicism, which he fell in love with after his repeated trips to Italy after 1895. You can feel

Charles Cotte, Grief, Victim of the Sea, 1908-09, Oil on canvas, The National Museum of Western Art (Matsukata Collection)

In contrast to Denis's bright and blissful scenery, the next exhibition presents a heavy use of black by the band noir (black group), a group that depicts the nature and customs of Brittany in the lineage of realism. Color works follow.

Among them, Charles Cottet's 3.5-meter-wide large work Lamentation, Victim of the Sea (1908-09) was a masterpiece. A representative work of Kotte, who has worked on many works on the theme of the tragedy of the sea and people who endure the harshness of nature. At the wharf of the Isle of Sainte in Brittany, where maritime accidents have never ceased, the islanders' mourning for a drowned fisherman is depicted superimposed on the traditional painting of the mourning of Christ.

Charles Cottet Left: "Saint John's Festival Fire" circa 1900, oil on canvas, Ohara Museum of Art

Another of Cotte's works that left an impression on me was The Flame of St. John (c.1900), which depicts a scene of prayers offered to the dead. The expression of light and shade, reminiscent of baroque paintings, is beautiful, and the expressions of the people illuminated by the bonfire have a solemn yet slightly chilling atmosphere.

Chapter 4 "From Japan to Brittany via Paris: The Eyes of Japanese Artists"

In the final section, Chapter 4, "From Japan to Brittany via Paris: The Perspectives of Artists from Japan," he studied abroad in Paris, an advanced city of art, from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century (from the late Meiji period to the Taisho period). , and focused on Japanese painters who also traveled to Brittany, a “foreign country within a foreign country”.

Keiichiro Kume, Picking Apples, 1892, oil on canvas, Kume Museum of Art

Seiki Kuroda, Girl of Breha, 1891, oil on canvas, Ishibashi Foundation Artizon Museum

Seiki Kuroda, a leading figure in the modern Western-style painting world in Japan, was one of the first Japanese painters to visit Brittany.In 1891, he traveled to Brea Island with Keiichiro Kume before becoming a professor at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. Kuroda's Girl from Brecha (1891) is depicted with her hair down, which is unusual for a Brittany girl. The bright and dark contrasts in Rembrandt-style interiors and vivid color contrasts are eye-catching.

Heizo Kanayama, Under the Apple (Brittany), 1915, oil on canvas, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art

Tsunetomo Morita, Il Blair, 1915, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama

Kanae Yamamoto, Bretonne, 1920, multicolored woodcut, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo *Exhibition until May 7 (Sun)

Kanae Yamamoto, who contributed to the popularization of creative prints, was one of the people who visited Brittany. "Bretonne" (1920), well-known as an image of a Japanese painter's research in Brittany, is a woodblock print completed after returning to Japan based on sketches during his stay. The screen composition that emphasizes the horizon with a simple background that matches the sketch, and the calm blue and black color tone create the tranquil atmosphere of the iconic Brittany woman.

Oka Shikanosuke, Signal Beacon, 1926, oil on canvas, Meguro Museum of Art

Related materials such as guidebooks and trunks were also exhibited at the venue, and it was a fun point that I felt like traveling to Brittany through those materials and works.

Various artists from both the West and the East are working on one big theme, Brittany, but what they saw in this foreign land and what kind of approach they took were completely different. A painter who stared at the beauty of the scenery of Brittany and envisioned paradise, and a painter who sublimated the harsh realities of poverty and maritime accidents into his works. It was an ambitious exhibition that once again shed light on the individuality of each artist.

The event will be held until June 11, 2023 (Sun).

Overview of "Brittany, the Land of Admiration: A Country Seen by Monet, Gauguin, Seiki Kuroda, and Others"

exhibition period March 18 (Sat) – June 11 (Sun), 2023
venue National Museum of Western Art
Opening hours 9:30-17:30 (until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)
*Open until 20:00 on May 1 (Mon), 2 (Tue), 3 (Wed/Holiday), 4 (Thu/Holiday)
*Admission until 30 minutes before closing
closing day Monday
*Excluding May 1st (Monday)
Viewing fee (tax included) General 2,100 yen, university students 1,500 yen, high school students 1,100 yen

※Junior high school students and younger, people with physical and mental disabilities and one attendant are free of charge. No need to purchase a ticket or make a reservation for a specific date and time.
*If you are a university student, high school student, junior high school student or younger, and have any kind of notebook, please present your student ID card or something that can confirm your age when you enter the museum.

For other details, please check the official page .

organizer National Museum of Western Art, TBS, Yomiuri Shimbun
patronage Embassy of France in Japan/Institut Francais Japan, TBS Radio
inquiry 050-5541-8600 (Hello Dial)
Exhibition official website https://bretagne2023.jp/

*The content of the article is as of the interview date (March 17, 2023). Please check the official website for the latest information.

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