Georges Rouault and Japan: A Shared Spirit and Sense of Art

Georges Rouault and Japan: A Shared Spirit and Sense of ArtGeorges Rouault and Japan: A Shared Spirit and Sense of Art

General Information

Apr. 11– Jun. 23, 2020
[To Our Visitors]
We will take measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and open from Friday, June 5th.

10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Admittance until 5:30 p.m.)
* Open until 8 p.m. (admittance until 7:30 p.m.) on May 8 and Jun. 5
(but open on Wednesday, Apr. 29 and May 6)
(but open on Wednesday, Jun. 10 and 17)
Adults: ¥1000
Visitors aged 65 or over carrying proof of age: ¥900
Students (College): ¥700
Students (High / Middle school): ¥500
Admission is free for children in primary school and younger.
Groups of 20 or more will receive a ¥100 discount per person (not including those aged 65 or over).
Admission is free for disability passbook holders and up to one accompanying adult. Free admission is offered to all visitors on International Museum Day (May 18).
Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art, NHK Promotions, The Tokyo Shimbun
Embassy of France in Tokyo / Institut français du Japon, Minato City Board of Education
Japan Airlines
Special Cooperation
Fondation Georges Rouault
Message from Mr. Jean-Yves Rouault, President of the Fondation Georges Rouault

Exhibition overview

A shared sense of color and line

Georges Rouault (1871-1958) was a prominent figure in 20th-century French art. Almost a hundred years ago, in 1921, artist Ryuzaburo Umehara was inspired to purchase Rouault’s painting Nude and bring it home to Japan from Paris. This was the first of many Rouault works to be introduced to Japan, where their powerful lines and radiant visual texture greatly impacted the world of yoga, Western-style Japanese paintings. Rouault himself became friendly with members of Japan’s art world—for example, he visited and even worked on his art at the Parisian home of art collector Shigetaro Fukushima.

The exhibition focuses on Rouault’s colorful relationship with Japan, depicting it through oil paintings, watercolors, and prints by Rouault that have long been admired by Japanese audiences, as well as select works by well-known modern yoga artists such as Umehara, Shunsuke Matsumoto, and Kotaro Migishi. In doing so, the exhibition highlights Rouault’s role in the history of yoga and the uniqueness of Japan’s appraisal of Rouault’s work. The exhibition also includes Suiboku-ga, ink wash painting, by Hakuin Ekaku and Tessai Tomioka, as well as works by Japanese artist one generation removed from Rouault and by contemporary Japanese artists. By observing the similarities in these disparate works, visitors will better understand the universality of Rouault’s art and how it transcends time and form.

The approximately 80 works and related materials from around the world that are presented in this exhibition will allow visitors to discover a new aspect to Rouault’s art that is rooted in Japan.

Exhibition highlights

1. The displayed works, including some that have never been exhibited in Japan, all have a connection to Japan and demonstrate Rouault’s interest in the country.

The Georges Rouault and Japan exhibition gathers a number of Rouault’s works with a history related to Japan. It features pieces such as Nude (1908), the first Rouault piece to come to Japan; Pierrot (1925), which collector Shigetaro Fukushima introduced to Japan through a magazine;and La Sibylle de Cumes (1947), a much-admired painting from Rouault’s 1953 retrospective in Tokyo. Other works, including some making their debut in Japan, show Rouault’s interest in this country, such as Japanese warrior(c. 1928) and Studies Based on Japanese Prints (1922 or later). The exhibition also introduces, for the first time, letters written to Rouault by Japanese artists.

2. Works by Japanese modern artists Ryuzaburo Umehara and Shunsuke Matsumoto that demonstrate Rouault’s influence!

By displaying Rouault’s art with select works by modern yoga masters such as Ryuzaburo Umehara, Shunsuke Matsumoto, and Kotaro Migishi, this exhibition offers a valuable opportunity to learn about the role Rouault played in the development of Western-style painting in Japan.

3. Suiboku-ga by Hakuin Ekaku and Tessai Tomioka, works by Rouault’s successors, and works by contemporary artists that show similarities with Rouault’s oeuvre.

Presented in this exhibition are Japanese Suiboku-ga pieces, as well as works by Japanese artist one generation removed from Rouault and contemporary Japanese artists, including Yasutake Funakoshi, Tomoharu Murakami, and Makoto Fujimura. By observing the similarities in these works and Rouault’s, visitors will better understand how the universality of Rouault’s works transcends time, place, and form.

A shared sense of line and a shared sensibility

Japanese audiences have long praised Rouault’s art for the Japanese and Eastern sensibility expressed within. This section displays works of Japanese Suiboku-ga, which are often considered to be kindred to Rouault’s works, alongside works by the artist himself.

Hakuin Ekaku, Dharma
Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768) was a monk credited with reviving the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. He strove to bring enlightenment to commoners, and began painting calligraphic art at age 60 as a way to spread his beliefs. His bold brushstrokes, unconcerned with technique, have captivated many art lovers.

I. Meetings: Mutual discoveries between Rouault and Japan

In the 1920s, Japanese artists studying in France such as Ryuzaburo Umehara and Katsuzo Satomi, as well as critic and collector Shigetaro Fukushima, were moved upon encountering Rouault’s works in Paris. They purchased his pieces and brought them home, laying the cornerstone for Rouault’s introduction to Japan. In this section are exhibited works created by Rouault prior to 1930, lauded by Japanese artists living in France, as well as Rouault’s imitations of nishiki-e, or polychromatic woodblock prints—proof that Rouault admired Japan in return.

Georges Rouault, Japanese warrior
c. 1928 | Chinese ink, pastel and oil with essential oil on paper | Private collection © ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2019 E3556
The dynamism of the warhorse and the spirited expression of the warrior are skillfully brought to life with quick, black brushstrokes. This painting is believed to have been the one which Rouault showed Shigetaro Fukushima when he visited Fukushima’s Parisian home.

Moreau’s successor: Rouault’s interest in Japanese art

Rouault actively forged links with Japan, painting imitations of nishiki‑e and in 1929 visiting the Paris home of Shigetaro Fukushima, who purchased one of his paintings. One focal point of this exhibition is to shed light on Rouault’s approach to Japan. Three of Rouault’s imitations of Japanese-style prints are in the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris’s Pompidou Center. Rouault’s master, Gustave Moreau, was a passionate admirer of Japanese art. Following Moreau’s death, Rouault became the first director of the Musée Gustave Moreau, a role in which he saw the works and collected pieces that reflect Moreau’s research—an environment in which he readily encountered Japanese art.

Gustave Moreau, Japanese Kabuki actor
Year unknown | Watercolor and black lead on paper | Musée Gustave Moreau
Photo © RMN- Grand Palais / Rene - Gabriel Ojeda / distributed by AMF
Exemplifying Moreau’s research on Japanese art, this work copied a nishiki-e exhibited at the 1869 Musée Oriental exposition at the Palace of Industry in Paris.

*This work is not on show. Instead it is presented in the panel.

II. Influence: Rouault’s reception by contemporary Japanese painters

Many more of Rouault’s works were introduced to Japan between 1929 and 1934. The year 1934 was particularly important. Ten of Rouault’s oil and gouache paintings were presented at the Fukushima Collection exhibition, captivating an entire generation of young Japanese artists. This section introduces a selection of works by prominent Japanese modern artists—Katsuzo Satomi, Ryuzaburo Umehara, Shunsuke Matsumoto, Kotaro Migishi, Tatsuoki Nambata, and Shigeyoshi Hayashi—who all went through phases, inspired by Rouault, in which they transformed their themes, techniques, and materials.

Kotaro Migishi, Clown
c. 1930-1931 | Oil on canvas | Migishi Kotaro Museum of Art, Hokkaido
Rouault’s influence is evident in the portraits of clowns and other figures painted by Kotaro Migishi (1903-1934) around 1930. The similarities with Rouault’s work are clear in the bright red outfit and in the thick outlines that help the figure stand out from the dark background.

III. Appreciation: Growing recognition and demand for Rouault in postwar Japan

In 1953, as Tokyo was recovering from World War II, the Tokyo National Museum organized a large retrospective of Rouault. A great number of famous works, including some of Rouault’s late-period masterpieces, enchanted Japanese artists as well as numerous writers and collectors. The retrospective, combined with Rouault’s death in 1958, solidified his reputation in Japan, inspiring magazine features dedicated to Rouault and the publication of new books on the artist. Section III focuses on Rouault’s late-period works, which were especially beloved and collected in postwar Japan, and related materials.

Georges Rouault, The Sybil from Cumes
1947 | Oil on paper | Private collection
The Sybil from Cumes was exhibited at the 1953 retrospective, an exhibition that introduced many of Rouault’s late-period works depicting religious figures, including this piece.

*This work is not on show. Instead it is presented in the panel.

Epilogue: Legacy to the present age

The final section exhibits works by modern and contemporary artists Yasutake Funakoshi, Tomoharu Murakami, and Makoto Fujimura. Despite differing from Rouault in their generations, mediums, and styles, these artists have produced prayer-like works that manifest a deep spirituality. By observing the similarities between these works and Rouault’s own spiritual works, visitors are encouraged to consider the universality of Rouault’s works and the present-day significance they continue to hold in Japan, where they are still well-loved.

Makoto Fujimura, Twin Rivers of Tamagawa
1989 |Gold, silver, sumi and mineral pigments on Kumohada paper | Tokyo University of the Arts
Boston native Makoto Fujimura (1960- ) studied Japanese painting at the Tokyo University of the Arts between 1986 and 1992. Fujimura, who blends traditional Japanese methods and materials with a contemporary abstract style, has paid homage to Rouault in several of his works.

* The gallery will be partially reinstalled during the exhibition.