The masterpieces from the collection at the Bridgestone Museum are the result of the love of art of three generations of the Ishibashi industrial dynasty.
The founder of the Bridgestone company, Shojiro Ishibashi (1889-1976), demonstrated early on in his career a passion for arts, and more particularly Western arts, which he began to collect as of the late 1930s. In 1952 he commissioned the building of a museum at the heart of Tokyo to house his collection. The museum displays Impressionist pieces as well as Western and Japanese works of modern art to the public. This collection was gradually enriched with each generation. The Ishibashi Foundation today conserves more than 2,600 works.
During the current renovation work at the museum and while awaiting the completion of the new buildings, the masterpieces of the collection will be on display for a unique exhibition in the West at the Musée de l’Orangerie for the spring/summer 2017 season. The exhibition will notably give pride of place to works ranging from Impressionism to western and eastern post-war abstraction, from Monet to Renoir, and from Caillebotte to Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock and Shiraga.
One of the pivotal points of the exhibition is also the permanent link established between the works, their buyers and the history of modern Japan, in order to give visitors background information. Lastly, this exhibition finds a mirror effect at the Musée de l’Orangerie, where a private passion for art has been transformed into a collection open to all audiences.
The popularity of Japanese art in Europe in the late 19th century is common knowledge. Less well-known is that Western art (and Impressionism in particular) was equally esteemed among visionary collectors in Japan, including Shôjirô Ishibashi, a businessman who began making extensive acquisitions in the 1930s.
An industrial dynasty with a passion for art
Shôjirô Ishibashi (1889-1976) was shaped by the Meiji period, during which Japan opened up to the rest of the world. He was one of the key players in the meteoric process of technological modernisation in the Japanese archipelago in the very early 20th century. After taking the helm of the family garment factory, Shôjirô Ishibashi gradually diversified into rubber and began to manufacture tyres. He called his company Bridgestone, a literal translation of his surname: ishi (stone) and bashi (bridge), thus demonstrating a desire to encompass both cultures. He had a villa built in the Western style, and was keen to decorate it with works of art and became a collector. He soon began to consider making the works of art which he had collected accessible to the public. This philanthropic plan, which came to fruition with the inauguration of the Bridgestone Museum in Tokyo in 1952. Four years later, he set up the Ishibashi Foundation to ensure the long-term mission of the new museum. His son and grandson have provided continuity of management to the present day.
An early predilection for yôga painting
In the 1920s, Shôjirô Ishibashi was interested in contemporary painting, he acquired a number of pieces by Shigeru Aoki, one of the most prominent Japanese painters working in the Western style. The influence of European painting can also be seen in the work of Hanjirô Sakamoto and in the famous Black Fan by Takeji Fujishima. Journals such as Shirabaka helped to promote the European aesthetic – even in its most avant-garde forms – but this did not reflect a hierarchy of taste. The first exhibition at the Bridgestone Museum comprised equal numbers of Western and yôga paintings.