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Tokyo and Western art

Japan's only national institution devoted to Western art, the National Museum of Western Art (MNAO) was established in April 1959 from the Matsukata collection. The building, designed by Le Corbusier, offers a magnificent collection of impressionist paintings and sculptures by Auguste Rodin. It organizes exhibitions, carries out the acquisition of works of art and documents, research, restoration and conservation, education and the publication of documents related to Western art.

Let's discover with Claude Monet, Paul Signac and Auguste Rodin, three of the works exhibited at the MNAO.

White Ships, 1908, watercolor over graphite, with gouache and wax resist, Brooklyn Museum
Claude Monet. En Bateau. 1887. Huile sur toile. MNAO Tokyo. Collection Matsukata

Claude Monet painted several paintings which have the Epte as a setting, a tributary of the Seine which joins it near Giverny. If the series of 23 paintings on the poplars is famous, Monet also stages the members of a family that he recomposed with Alice Hoschedé. This work is one of the most accomplished in a series of paintings entitled "On a boat". The characters represented are Suzanne and Blanche, two of Alice's daughters.

Suzanne, will marry in 1892 with the American painter Théodore Earl Butler and will give him two children before dying at the age of 30 in 1899. As for Blanche (1895-1947) she will marry Jean Monet, the eldest son of Claude and his first wife Camille Doncieux in 1897.

Soldats espagnols, ch. 1903, aquarelle sur mine de plomb, avec gouache, Brooklyn Museum
Paul Signac . Le port de Saint Tropez. 1901 Huile sur toile. MNAO Tokyo. Collection Matsukata

Deeply affected by the death of Georges Seurat in 1892, Paul Signac left the following year for a yacht trip around the Mediterranean. He discovers on this occasion what was then only a small fishing port, Saint-Tropez, which he will paint many times during the next 10 years. Going beyond the optical mixture that characterized the beginnings of pointillism, Signac reinforces in this large painting of 130 by 160 centimeters the contrast between the brushstrokes and the use of tints which are so many clues announcing Fauvism.

Pêcheur majorquin, 1908, huile sur toile, Collection privée
Auguste Rodin. Les portes de l'enfer. Panneau. MNAO Tokyo. Collection Matsukata Photo © Norihiro Ueno

In 1880, Auguste Rodin was commissioned by the French government to create a set of doors for the entrance to the future Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. He decides to create a series of bas reliefs representing the "Divine Comedy". The man seated in the center of the tympanum staring at the figures descending into hell is the Thinker, and the Three Shadows standing atop the doorway are closely related to the form of Adam. This monument was never used and was only cast in bronze in the 1920s, after Rodin's death in 1917.

7-7 Ueno-koen, Taito-ku,

Tokyo 110-0007, Japon

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...


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