The masterpieces from the collection at the Bridgestone Museum are the result of the love of art of three generations of the Ishibashi industrial dynasty.
The founder of the Bridgestone company, Shojiro Ishibashi (1889-1976), demonstrated early on in his career a passion for arts, and more particularly Western arts, which he began to collect as of the late 1930s. In 1952 he commissioned the building of a museum at the heart of Tokyo to house his collection. The museum displays Impressionist pieces as well as Western and Japanese works of modern art to the public. This collection was gradually enriched with each generation. The Ishibashi Foundation today conserves more than 2,600 works.
During the current renovation work at the museum and while awaiting the completion of the new buildings, the masterpieces of the collection will be on display for a unique exhibition in the West at the Musée de l'Orangerie for the spring/summer 2017 season. The exhibition will notably give pride of place to works ranging from Impressionism to western and eastern post-war abstraction, from Monet to Renoir, and from Caillebotte to Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock and Shiraga.
One of the pivotal points of the exhibition is also the permanent link established between the works, their buyers and the history of modern Japan, in order to give visitors background information. Lastly, this exhibition finds a mirror effect at the Musée de l'Orangerie, where a private passion for art has been transformed into a collection open to all audiences.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Mademoiselle Georgette Charpentier assise, 1876
Tokyo, Bridgestone Museum of Art
© Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation
Cécile Girardeau, curator, Musée de l’Orangerie
Yasuhide Shimbata, chief curator, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation
Kyoko Kagawa, curator, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation
With the special Support of Bridgestone Corporation
With the Cooperation of JAPAN AIRLINES
The popularity of Japanese art in Europe in the late 19th century is common knowledge. Less well-known is that Western art (and Impressionism in particular) was equally esteemed among visionary collectors in Japan, including Shôjirô Ishibashi, a businessman who began making extensive acquisitions in the 1930s.
An industrial dynasty with a passion for art
Shôjirô Ishibashi (1889-1976) was shaped by the Meiji period, during which Japan opened up to the rest of the world. He was one of the key players in the meteoric process of technological modernisation in the Japanese archipelago in the very early 20th century. After taking the helm of the family garment factory, Shôjirô Ishibashi gradually diversified into rubber and began to manufacture tyres. He called his company Bridgestone, a literal translation of his surname: ishi (stone) and bashi (bridge), thus demonstrating a desire to encompass both cultures. He had a villa built in the Western style, and was keen to decorate it with works of art and became a collector. He soon began to consider making the works of art which he had collected accessible to the public. This philanthropic plan, which came to fruition with the inauguration of the Bridgestone Museum in Tokyo in 1952. Four years later, he set up the Ishibashi Foundation to ensure the long-term mission of the new museum. His son and grandson have provided continuity of management to the present day.
An early predilection for yôga painting
In the 1920s, Shôjirô Ishibashi was interested in contemporary painting, he acquired a number of pieces by Shigeru Aoki, one of the most prominent Japanese painters working in the Western style. The influence of European painting can also be seen in the work of Hanjirô Sakamoto and in the famous Black Fan by Takeji Fujishima. Journals such as Shirabaka helped to promote the European aesthetic – even in its most avant-garde forms – but this did not reflect a hierarchy of taste. The first exhibition at the Bridgestone Museum comprised equal numbers of Western and yôga paintings.
Before and after Impressionism
In terms of European art, Shôjirô Ishibashi admitted to a marked preference for French Impressionists. Flood in Argenteuil, one of the first paintings he purchased, reveals his enthusiasm for Monet, who had already captivated collectors such as the businessman Shunsui Sumitomo and Keishirô Matsui, a diplomat who had made several trips to France. Ishibashi, who wanted masterpieces of this type to stay in Japan, acquired six Monets from private collections which were being broken up, notably the collection belonging to Kôjirô Matsukata, an industrialist from Kobe who had purchased a number of Impressionist paintings in the 1910s and 1920s and had intended, like Ishibashi later on, to found a museum to showcase Western art in Japan. Twilight, Venice, which was acquired in 1952, formed part of the collection of Sanji Kuroki, a friend of Monet. Paintings by Sisley, Renoir, Pissarro and Degas also grace the Ishibashi collection thanks to Shôjirô, who was also interested in Manet (The Opera Ball, at the Bridgestone in 1961). Milking Cows at Gréville by Jean-François Millet demonstrates the collector’s openness to other styles, this taste was perpetuated by his heirs: Deer Running in the Snow by Courbet, was acquired by Shôjirô’s son Kan’ichirô, along with Don Quixote in the Mountains by Daumier. Paintings by Monet and Renoir also entered the collection in the 1980s and Young Man at the Piano by Caillebotte was purchased in 2011 by Shôjirô’s grandson Hiroshi, who has managed the Ishibashi Foundation since 2004.
Shôjirô Ishibashi did not overlook post-Impressionism, as is perfectly illustrated by Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire and Château Noir. The collector assembled a small group of advisors to help him source artworks, including Inô Dan, an art historian who had spent time studying in the West. Cézanne Wearing a Soft Hat (1894) was acquired in 1954 and two of the three Gauguins in the exhibition were bought in the very early 1960s. Still Life with Horse’s Head offers an insight into the way in which the Japanese arts captivated French painters in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A painting by Van Gogh (Windmills and Gardens on Montmartre) and The Toilet by Gustave Moreau, entered the collection some ten years later.
Classic modern art
Sculpture also features in the Bridgestone Museum, whose founder admired Rodin and Bourdelle as well as art from his own era, as is demonstrated by Torso, a sculpture by Zadkine from 1951. From the outset, the museum was very keen to showcase modern and contemporary Western art at a time when there was no exhibition space devoted to it in Tokyo (the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo was not established until 1959). Brancusi’s The Kiss, provided a fine coda to this collection in 1998.
This interest in modernity naturally found scope for expression in the field of painting. A very inventive watercolour by Paul Signac (La Rochelle) appears to have been the first Western work of art acquired by Shôjirô Ishibashi. The purchase of works by Maurice Denis (Bacchanalia) and Raoul Dufy (Still Life with Fruit) confirms the appeal of figurative styles from the period 1910-1920. In this respect, Ishibashi shared the same tastes as Paul Guillaume, whose collection now defines the Musée de l’Orangerie. Thirty years apart, the two men were both drawn to the same artists, including Rousseau, Soutine, and Picasso. Several decades before entering the Ishibashi Foundation collection in 1969, Modigliani’s Young Farmer belonged to Paul Guillaume.
Matisse is also represented. Shôjirô Ishibashi bought several of his paintings, but his son and grandson also made acquisitions (Collioure, 1905, and Still Life - Symphony in Red, 1927). They have been instrumental in steering the collection towards the 20th century. Saltimbanque With Crossed Arms, an iconic painting by Picasso, which was acquired due to the determination of Kan’ichirô, is now a key feature of the museum display. By his own admission, Hiroshi rounded off the collection by attempting to trace the history of abstract painting more fully. As a result, we can admire a Mondrian (Pointillist Dune Study) in which the fragmented treatment of the landscape prefigures Paul Klee’s daringly colourful work (Island, 1932).
Post-war figurative and abstract art
Kan’ichirô Ishibashi, Hiroshi’s father, was passionate about abstract painting. His private collection was transferred to the Ishibashi Foundation in 1998 and the museum was able to boast works by Fautrier, whom Kan’ichirô valued in particular. The role played by Hiroshi Ishibashi in assembling this part of the collection is worthy of note. Action painting is exemplified by a Pollock and a work by Hans Hartung, which represent the West, and they are set against art by Shiraga and Zao Wou-Ki. These paintings are striking on account of their expressive power and their format which engages the viewer in an immersive experience. Lastly, East meets West in paintings by artists such as Soulages and Domoto, which blend references and techniques from both side of the globe.
Monet and Clemenceau – Japan in Focus
Clemenceau and Japanese Art
By Matthieu Séguéla, historian, lecturer and researcher
Monday 24 April, 7pm
Monet and Clemenceau – Japan in Focus
A Dialogue between Philippe Piguet and Matthieu Séguéla
Philippe Piguet, art historian and journalist.
Matthieu Séguéla, historian, lecturer and researcher
Wednesday 26 April, 7pm
Western Art in Japan at War
By Michaël Lucken, Historian, director of the Centre of Japanese Studies at the INALCO
Wednesday 10 May, 7pm
Paul Claudel and Japan: the diplomatic and artistic career of the Poet-Ambassador (1921-1927)
By Pascal Lécroart, senior lecturer at the Université de Franche-Comté, Head of the Arts and Literature Centre in the ELLIADD Laboratory
Wednesday 17 May, 7pm
The Taste for the West, from the training of Japanese painters to the creation of collections of Western art in Japan
Cécile Girardeau , curator, musée de l’Orangerie
Wednesday 31 May, 7pm
For families, children aged 5+
Wednesday 31 May and 28 June at 3pm
Thursday 19 April and Wednesday 10 May at 3pm
Saturday 10 June at 10.30am et Sunday 11 June at 2.30pm
Lundi 10 July and Thursday 20 July at 3pm
Saturday 29 April and 13 May at 3pm
Saturday 10 juin at 2.30pm and Sunday 11 June at 10.30am
Friday 7 July and Monday 17 July at 3pm
Concerts are played in the Water Lilies room
Aya Okuyama, piano
Okumura, Saint-Saëns, Miyake, Debussy…
Friday 9 June at 7pm
Mieko Miyazaki, Koto (Japanese zither)
Suizan Lagrost, Shakuhachi (Japanese flute)
Kengyo, Miyagi, Yamamoto, Debussy, Satie…
Friday 23 June at 7pm
L'île aux libellules (Dragonfly Island)
Saturday 22 April, 20 May, 24 June, 8 July at 3pm
Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 June at 4.30pm