Monday, June 14, 2010
Édouard Manet and Modern Paris
The Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in central Tokyo is currently hosting an exhibit centered on French Painter Édouard Manet and the Paris of the late 19th Century. Being a fan of that era in French Art, I knew I had to make it to Tokyo before the exhibit ended.
The show was put on with the assistance of the Musée d'Orsay, so the gallary was packed with excellent works. Though two of his most famous efforts, Olympia and A Bar at the Folies-Bergère were absent, there was still plenty to look at. One I particularly enjoyed was the above portrait of Emile Zola.
I think my favorite painting was this one, Sur la Plage. A simple look at everyday life in the mid to late 1800s, centered on people. I think it perfectly captures the time and place. Indeed, time and place were a central theme to the exhibit at large. Using contemporary photographs, architectural plans, posters and more, the museum sought to give a wider context to Manet and his times for an audience that is probably less familiar with European history. All of the supplementary material was printed in both French and Japanese, so between the two languages I could usually get a hint of what it was all about.
One aspect of Manet's paintings that I noticed was his occasional tendency towards the more macabre aspects of daily life. The Dead Matador is a rather disturbing piece really, stark and to me much less outwardly appealing than much of his other work, or the work of his contemporaries, though still a stunning piece.
I was overjoyed with the opportunity to see an exhibit like this so close to my city, though there were drawbacks as well. I've found that any sort of cultural exhibit or event in Tokyo tends to draw a large crowd. (Possibly because of the 35 million people living in the greater metropolitan area?) The exhibit wasn't as busy as it could have been, but there were plenty of people hovering around the paintings, and the Japanese tendency to queue up through an exhibition was in full effect.
Despite all that I must say I had a great time, and learned a bit more about art, Manet, and the birth of Modern Paris, which is a pretty good mornings work if you ask me. If you happen to be in Tokyo before July 25th, I highly recommend a trip to the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum.