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No.194 (8/26/11)

Special Exhibition, Painting Light: The hidden techniques ofthe Impressionists

By Chiho Tsukiashi
Staff Writer

Many Japanese, including myself, are fans of the Impressionist. If you want to find a Japanese person in the U.S. or Europe, go to a museum which has Impressionist collections, such as the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Metropolitan Museum in New York, or the Boston Museum in Boston. The Impressionist were deeply influenced by Japanese fine art, and their styles instinctively appeal to the Japanese. The special exhibition, the Impressionists Painting Light at the Aomori Museum of Art has gathered more than 10,000 visitors as of July 22. That number also includes Japanese Prince Hironomiya. This exhibition has been held in Germany, Italy, and Austria so far. In Japan, Aomori is the only city hosting it. It is a rare chance to get to see paintings by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin, and more, all in one place. In addition, the process of painting and technique expressing light that Wallraf Richartz Museum has analyzed are visually explained.

Impressionism is an art movement which spread in the late 19th century in Paris. Compared with traditional realism where subjects are precisely depicted like photographs, those in impressionism paintings are somewhat exaggerated and they do not have much realistic description. Many of them do not have religious meaning behind them. Unlike abstract paintings, they still keep some realism to let you identify what is being painted. In addition to the characteristics above, each artist’s distinctive style and their paintings colorful features make them popular in the art industry. Masterpieces are traded somewhere in the price range of $10,000,000 to $100,000,000.

Before impressionism was born, realism was the mainstream of art. When the photograph was invented in 1827, techniques to paint things accurately were not as valued as they used to be, because photographs beat realism in that feature. Many painters lost their jobs painting portraits, which was a major asset in the art business. At the same time, photographs inspired painters by showing them appreciation of capturing a moment in time. In the 1867 World Exposition in Paris, Japanese prints caught the eye of many artists. They liked Ukiyo-e’s free layouts of subjects, extraordinary viewpoints, vivid colors and flat expressions. Those characteristics were brought into impressionists’ work, and it was called Japonism.

Wallraf Richartz Museum in Koeln, Germany boasts one of the largest collections of the Impressionist’s paintings. Taking four years, it studied these collections using X-rays and microscopes. The special exhibition showing their findings has created a sensation. It toured Firenze and Vienna, gathering around 600,000 visitors in the three cities. Over 60 pieces were brought from Wallraf Richartz museum to the exhibition in Aomori City. All explanations are written in Japanese, but the masterpieces will eloquently speak to your heart.

A researcher at the museum has found an actual poplar seed on Gustave Caillebotte’s piece which depicts white linens flapping in wind between poplar trees. It reveals that the artist painted under the trees on a windy day. The canvas is as large as one meter by one and a half meter. It must not have been easy to paint in such a strong wind.

Another example of their findings, an X-ray revealed that a portrait was found under another portrait. It appears that the artist may have recycled the canvas. Also found was the shocking discovery that what was believed to be a Monet's piece was found to be a fake. Another great finding was an anonymous painting that was identified as a Manet’s work. The two paintings are exhibited in the very last room at the Aomori Museum.

Renoir's small picture seems to be gathering the most visitors. It is a picture of a girl in a pink dress sewing, paying close attention to each stitch. The model is, in fact, a boy, but the reason why the painting is so attractive is the adorableness of the child’s serious manner.

This special exhibition continues until October 10. It will be closed on September 12 and 26. Open from 9:00 to 18:00 (till Sep. 30) and from 9:30 to 17:00 from Oct. 1. Admission is 1,500 yen for adults, and 800 yen for college and high school students.

Driving Direction:
From the main gate, go straight and turn right at the city office. Turn right at the church past the City Hospital. When you come to a T, turn left. Soon afterwards, turn right and go across the railroad tracks. You are now on Rt. 8. Proceed about 17 km, and at the Circle K on your right turn left at the traffic light and go across the bridge. Turn right where you see a sign to “Michinoku Toll Road/ Aomori.” After 6 km, you will see Rt. 4. Go straight and the road becomes Michinoku Toll Road. At the tollgate, pay 840 yen and keep going. At the T, turn left onto Rt. 7. Then get off Rt. 7 at the sign “Sannai Maruyama Site/ Aomori Museum of Art.” Follow the signs for Aomori Museum of Art. It's the white building on your right.

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