While awaiting the arrival of spring and the symphony of color and blossoms it brings, one can seek reprieve from the bare branches of Tokyo’s concrete jungle at “Garden and Interior,” the ongoing exhibition at the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone, Kanagawa prefecture.
Nestled amidst the lush hills of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, one could that say the exhibit begins when you set foot on the carefully cultivated garden grounds of the Pola Museum.
In the natural light-filled interior of the museum, navigating the exhibit comes as easily as a walk in the park or, rather, impressionist garden.
Themed “Visions of an intimate world by Bonnard and Matisse,” the exhibit explores two spaces—the garden and the interior—which were commonplace subjects for paintings in 19th century bourgeois France, and is a visual treat of color and visual vibrancy.
The exhibit leads with the Garden theme, and in the first section entitled “Urban Gardens and Natural Gardens,” these two types of gardens that arose with the advance of bourgeois society in nineteenth century France are expounded via the paintings of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Theodore Rousseau.
Monet, who recreated a Japanese garden on his Giverny estate, was said to often proclaim, “Besides gardening and painting, I don’t know a thing.”
This exhibit showcases pieces by Monet of the gardens around his house at Giverny during his later years.
Both Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse are known as the two greatest colorists of the 20th century, and have sections dedicated to their interior depictions.
They were close friends who shared a common passion for the color, light and life of the Mediterranean, in the literal sense as well – they spent their later years living less than an hour’s drive apart, Bonnard near Cannes and Matisse in Nice.
Matisse, whose spontaneous brushwork and riots of color became known as Fauvism, had a passionate interest in the interior, usually animated by female figures—reading, dreaming, or sitting as models in a studio that was assimilated into the artist’s home.
Bonnard is known for his intense use of color; his often complex compositions—typically of sunlit interiors of rooms and gardens populated with friends and family members—are both narrative and autobiographical.
His wife, Marthe, was an ever-present subject over the course of several decades—seated at the kitchen table, with the remnants of a meal; or nude, as in a series of paintings where she reclines in the bathtub.
The exhibit captures how artists in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries perceived their surroundings, both exterior and interior, and their place in it, marking an important stage for the revolutionary developments of painting.
Matisse once wrote to Bonnard “Viva la peinture!” or “Long live painting!”
By the end of the exhibit, one would find it hard to disagree.
And by the end of the two-hour, at minimum, visual romp, one would say “Viva la museum café!” too for the in-house establishment which offers a sweet ending, topped with a full-on view of the natural beauty of the woods of Hakone, from the comfort of a heated interior.
“Garden and Interior – Visions of an intimate world by Bonnard and Matisse” runs till March 7, 2010 at the Pola Museum of Art, 1285 Kozukayama, Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa, 250-0631 Japan, tel: 04-6084-2111, web: www.polamuseum.or.jp.