Special Exhibition: Seiki Kuroda, Master of Modern Japanese Painting: The 150th Anniversary of His Birth
This year marks the 150th year since the birth of Western-style painter Seiki Kuroda (1866-1924) who made a great contribution to modernizing Japanese art and establishing the Institute. To commemorate this milestone, the Special Exhibition: Seiki Kuroda, Master of Modern Japanese Painting: The 150th Anniversary of His Birth was held at the Heiseikan, Tokyo National Museum from March 23rd through May 15th, 2016. The Institute, which has continued to conduct research and studies on Kuroda since its estublishment, was involved as an organizer in planning and composing the exhibition, resulting in making the exhibition that reflects the outcome of our research.
In this exhibition, over 200 pieces of his works were collected together ranging from those he created while he was studying in France to those sent to Hakubakai that he led and those exhibited at Bunten, to sketches in his late life, not to mention familiar masterpieces such as Reading and Lakeside. Moreover, as an attempt unique to this exhibition, paintings by French painters who influenced Kuroda while he was studying in France and those by Japanese Western-style painters with whom Kuroda got involved were also exhibited. As regards French paintings in particular, we invited Mr. Atsushi MIURA, an expert of French modern art and professor of the University of Tokyo, as a guest curator. French works, including Shepherdess with her flock (owned by Musee d’Orsay) by Jean-Francois Millet whom Kuroda looked up to and Froreal (owned by Musee d’Orsay, deposited in Musee des beaux-arts d’Arras) by Raphael Collin, his mentor, were also on display, providing a good opportunity to compare these with the counterparts by Japanese Western-style painters in order to identify what Kuroda learned from the mainstream of Western art and tried to bring over to Japan.
In the exhibition, while the audience appreciated Kuroda’s original works, real-size images of works that were destroyed by the fire during a war, including Morning Toilette and Talk on Ancient Romance, were also displayed. The mural painting for the entrance of Tokyo Station for the Imperial Family completed in 1914 based on Kuroda’s concept was burnt down in an air raid in 1945, but based on some photographs, a corner was set up to allow the audience to feel the ambience using images of Tokyo Station in those days as well.
The exhibition not only coincided with the cherry blossom viewing season and Golden Week holidays but also received good reviews from various media; as a result, it drew as many as roughly 182 thousand visitors in total. With this exhibition, the Institute believes that Kuroda’s great presence was felt anew. The exhibition offered an opportunity to take a comprehensive view of his career as a painter and life on the one hand. On the other hand, there are still materials yet to be elucidated, including the letters addressed to him that the Institute owns. The Institute will continue to conduct research and studies on Kuroda and publicize the outcome on the Bijutsu Kenkyu (The Journal of Art Studies) and its website.