Programme de Recherche International
Paris Île de France
The Ohara Museum of Art—the first museum to exhibit European art—was born in Japan on November 5, 1930. It was based on the personal experience of Torajirō Kojima (1881–1929) as a Japanese artist painting in the Western style and on the reception of Europe in Japan in the social condition at the beginning of the twentieth century. At that time, many young Japanese artists wished to make art in the European style, even though they had no opportunity to truly appreciate the European art. Kojima, one of these young painters, was fortunately allowed to stay in Europe for four and a half years. During that time, he had not only been brushing up on his own art, but had also become strongly aware of the necessity for a so-called “museum of Western art” in Japan. Ōhara answered his call. They began collecting artworks for the Japanese public. Just after the First World War, between 1919 and 1923, Ōhara dispatched Kojima twice to Europe, and Kojima collected works across many countries with the cooperation of some French artists Authentic paintings by impressionists had hardly been introduced in Japan, and Kojima might have considered them indispensable to convey the present of European art. While his personal connection was limited, he attempted to visit Claude Monet and directly obtained one of his paintings. On the other hand, Ōhara had personally collected Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Woman by Spring in 1914. Although not perfect, Ōhara and Kojima’s collection was a mirror that reflected the social condition of the Japanese and their view of Europe in the early twentieth century. Focusing on this point, my presentation will rely on Kojima’s diary, letters, and primary materials to clarify how impressionist works were collected by one Japanese businessman and painter and the significance of such a collection in Japan.