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National Museum of Western Art
Country: JapanAddress: 7-7 Ueno-koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo Website: www.nmwa.go.jp Uploaded artworks: 25 Uploaded artist: 21
Located within Ueno Park, it displays Matsukata’s French collection that survived the second world war and was returned to the Japanese people. The French collection was recognized as French property under the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty (1951). As a goodwill gesture, a total of 365 art works were returned to Japan including 196 paintings, 80 drawings, 26 prints, and 63 sculptures. One of the stipulations of the French government was that a national art museum be established to house and display the art works, and this led to the Japanese government to found the National Museum of Western Art. Many important pieces were returned but others found their way into French museums or were sold.
Kojiro Matsukata (1865-1950) began collecting at the same time as Dr. Albert Barnes. He was a successful entrepreneur and used his fortune to collect European art. He was the third son of Count Masayoshi Matsukata, a Japanese Prime Minister. Kojiro Matsukata graduated with a PhD in Civil Law from Yale University in 1890. He first worked as his father’s personal secretary. He then became a senior executive of the Kawasaki Shipping Company eventually becoming its president. In 1922, The New York Herald described him as the ‘mysterious Japanese’ who had been buying art at extravagant prices.
His motives for collecting European art were philanthropic. He was motivated by the desire to provide Japanese artists with the real thing since many of them were creating oil paintings without having seen an example of the real thing.
Paul Durand-Ruel acted as one of his art dealers as did the London artist Frank Brangwyn. There was also Yashiro Yukio, and Tsuchida Bakusen, a Japanese painter living in Paris. Leonce Benedicte, Director of the Musee de Luxemborg, Paris also located paintings for Matsukata. Kojiro Matzukata also purchased many pictures form the collection of Wilhelm Hansen.
The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 had dire consequences on the Japanese economy which consequently affected Kawasaki Shipping Company. He resigned as its president in 1928. His vast collection became part of the Kawasaki assets, with a significant portion being sold and scattered. He had already shipped many works to Japan in 1919 and 1920 but the 100% import duty persuaded him to leave the reminder in London and Paris.
His London collection was reported to have been destroyed in a warehouse fire in Knightsbridge on October 8, 1939. The French collection was seized by the French government as enemy property when Japan entered the war.
The Museum boasts one of the finest collection of Rodin sculptures in the world. The forecourt of the museum is the display area for Rodin’s sculptures - The Kiss, Gates of Hell, Burghers of Calais, and The Thinker. Also, on display is Emile-Antoine Bourdelle’s Hercules the Archer 1909. Within the museum, The Age of Bronze, Orpheus, Balzac (Last Study) and Man with the Broken Nose are exhibited. Also on view is Jean-Baptiste Carpeau, The Neapolitan Fisherboy.
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