at Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo
in the Ginza, Marunouchi area
This event has ended - (2020-10-24 - 2021-01-17)
The global art scene in the 1890s was significantly linked with Post-Impressionism (approximately 1886-1905). In contrast to Impressionism (late 1800s), the notable artists of this period evoked their emotions in a subjective approach by utilizing more experimental colors, expressive symbols, and distinctive brushstrokes. Breaking away from the Impressionist technique of capturing natural light, works began to reveal more subdued hues and colorful shadows, such as in Paul Sérusier’s Le Bouddha englouti-Hommage à Odilon Redon (1916).
As 1894 was also the year the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Building was completed as the first office building in the Marunouchi district in Tokyo, Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum has dedicated the exhibition “1894 Visions: Odilon Redon and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec” to this period. Also commemorating the museum’s 10th anniversary, the exhibition presents around 140 oil paintings, lithographs, charcoal drawings, pastels, woodblock prints, and arts and crafts by remarkable artists. While works by Gustave Moreau, Edgar Degas, Jean-François Millet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Émile Bernard, Paul Sérusier, Berthe Morisot, Paul Gauguin, Félix Vallotton, Henri Rachou, Camille Martin, Pierre Bonnard, and Edmond-François Aman-Jean are all presented, there is a particular focus on Odilon Redon and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. These two released many of their renowned works in 1894—for Odilon Redon (1840-1916): L’Amour convalescent, Le regard, Le Manuscrit, and his first color works; and for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901): Babylone d’Allemagne, Confetti, Yvette Guilbert, Aux Ambassadeurs─Chanteuse au café-concert, and L’Estampe originale, Aux Ambassadeurs, the print portfolio that also involved Redon, Gauguin, and others.
Not to miss in the exhibition are also noteworthy works by Japanese artists who contributed largely to the 1890s: Hosui Yamamoto, Seiki Kuroda, Takeji Fujishima, Ryuzaburo Umehara, Chu Asai, Shotaro Koyama, Naojiro Harada, Saburosuke Okada, Keiichiro Kume, Kiyoshi Goda, Suteshiro Hahakabe, and Shigeru Aoki. Hosui Yamamoto, specifically, studied in France under the same teacher as Redon, which creates an important synthesis between the art of the West and the East.
The exhibition is divided into six sections. The first, “Late 19th century: Around Redon and Toulouse-Lautrec,” is devoted to works by Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas, and Cezanne. Here we see the Impressionist emphasis on natural light in Monet’s Le soir dans la prairie, Giverny (1888) and Pissarro’s Gardeuse de vache, Montfoucault (1875).
In the second section, “Noir—Redon’s Black, we get an overview of Odilon Redon as a symbolist, painter, printmaker, and pastel artist who primarily used black charcoal. In the early years of Redon’s career, he had been widely known for his charcoal etches and lithographs that depicted dream-like images and abstract visions of nature. In Dans le rêve, VIII. Vision 1879, the bold interpretation of the enormous eyeball in proportion to the two viewers below is further exaggerated by the deep contrast of light and dark. The same technique of bright light and deep black shades is also evident in Hommage à Goya, II. La FLEUR du MARÉCAGE une tête humaine et triste 1885, honoring his admiration for the Spanish painter, and illustrates a somewhat sad facial expression glowing in the light around shadows of a flower.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec comes to view in section 3, “Painter-Printmaker Toulouse—Lautrec.” Lautrec is considered one of the best-known painters of the Post-Impressionist period, owing to his spontaneous themes surrounding the Bohemian lifestyle in Paris in the mid-and late 1800s. The Aristide Bruant, dans son cabaret (1893) is one of Lautrec’s most famous lithograph works. Aristide Bruant was a successful entrepreneur and singer who managed a cabaret in the Montmartre quarter of Paris. He commissioned Lautrec to capture his persona to attract audiences, and Lautrec, in return sketched him in his iconic black, wide-brimmed hat, black cape, and red scarf.
Section 4, “1894 Tahiti in Paris, Japan in France—Paintings, Prints, Art and Decoration” focuses on striking works by Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Paul Gauguin, Félix Vallotton, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Gauguin, who returned to Paris from Tahiti in 1893, was popular for his colorful themes of Tahitian women by a lake or in a park, which he later collated in his woodcut travelogue, Noa Noa. Samples of these shown in the exhibition are Noanoa, Navenave Fenua (Terre délicieuse) (1848-1903), Noanoa, Te Po (La grande Nuit) (1848-1903), and Noanoa, L’Univers est créé (1848-1903), among others.
Felix Vallotton, Swiss and French painter, was also important in pursuing the development of modern woodcuts. His Le Bain (1894) is considered one of his most iconic woodcut works, proving his crisp technique in simple, flat, black and white forms, heavy on line work and stark contrast of light. He was part of the Les Nabis group of French painters that used modern metaphors and symbols and was greatly influenced by Japanese printmaking, eventually spawning the style of European Japonisme.
Finally, the blend of West and East is highlighted in the fifth section, “Oriental Feast—Hosui Yamamoto, Seiki Kuroda, Takeji Fujishima, Shigeru Aoki, Ryuzaburo Umehara,” where a wide array of works by Japanese artists can be enjoyed. Hosui Yamamoto lived in France from the 1870s-1880s. His oil painting, Urashima (Old Japanese Folktale) (c. 1893-95) is believed to be an interpretation of Urashima Tarō, the Japanese legend that speaks of a fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded with a visit to the palace of the Dragon God, under the sea. The style captures a European touch, with a slight copy of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the rear part of the picture. It was a delightful surprise to view many Post-Impressionism works by Japanese artists in this section.
In the last section, “Modern—White Light Beyond: Cezanne, Redon, Monet, Renoir, Denis, Bonnard,” more works of color by Redon can be viewed. The huge pastel on canvas of Redon’s Grand Bouquet 1901, displayed from floor to ceiling, serves as the spectacular highlight of this exhibition. In 1901, Redon delivered this pastel drawing to Baron Robert de Domecy to decorate his chateau in Vézelay in Bourgogne. The charming play of yellow, orange, green, and red envelop the bright blue vase, settling calmly around a spread of light. Lautrec unfortunately died in the same year, which mellowed the spirit of the era.
For those inspired by the Post-Impressionist artists and intrigued by the profound contribution of Japanese artists to this period, this exhibition leaves a substantial mark on one’s understanding of the evolution and union of Eastern and Western art.