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The Taste for the West, from the training of Japanese painters to the creation of collections of Western art in Japan

By Cécile Girardeau, curator, Musée de l’Orangerie

Modern Japanese Western-style painting, or yôga, is prominent in the collection that Shojiro Ishibashi put together, as these were the very first works that he acquired in the late 1920s. This style flourished particularly when Japan opened up during the Meiji Era. At that time, Japanese artists were becoming acquainted with the techniques and styles of Western painting, either by coming to Europe itself or through classes offered in Japan. Oil painting was very popular then. There is a room in the exhibition devoted to artworks from the Ishibashi Collection that were part of this trend. Moreover, the Ishibashi Collection was further enriched with works by Western artists, especially the Impressionists, which would subsequently form the core of the collection. This was not an isolated initiative and it is clear that some renowned Japanese collectors such as Matsukata had long shown a predilection for buying Western art. This lecture will look again at the importance of the link that was formed with Western art in the Meiji Era, not only through the training of Japanese painters at this time but also through the creation in Japan of collections of Western art.