For our 2017 calendar, we have selected twelve works with the sea as their subject.
The landforms at each seashore differ, and the sea, fascinating in itself,
changes with the weather and the seasons. Many artists have depicted the changing faces of the sea.
From the sea in myths and other tales to abstract works that inspire us to imagine the sea,
artists East and West have created works that transcend the landscape painting genre.
Please enjoy our selection of seascapes from the museum’s collection.
In October of 1908, Monet visited Venice with his wife Alice, at the invitation of a friend. To Monet, distressed by his declining eyesight and worsening health, the trip provided a welcome change of scene. Venice, which had fascinated many artists from the Renaissance on, held Monet in its thrall. By December, he had produced over 30 paintings. He took them all back to his studio at Giverney, where he gradually completed them. In May of 1912, he held an exhibition consisting entirely of 29 paintings of Venice. In this member of that series, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which is located on an island, floats on a sea painted by the setting sun. From blue and green to orange and back to blue and green, the sky and sea are indeed a symphony of colors.
February AOKI Shigeru Paradise under the Sea
The subject matter of this painting is the palace of the sea god, Wadatsumi, in the story of Umisachi-hiko and Yamasachi-hiko in the first section of the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters). Yamasachi has lost the fishhook he borrowed from his older brother, Umisachi. Hunting for it, he descends to the bottom of the sea, where he finds a palace built of fish scales. Aoki has depicted Yamasachi’s encounter there with the sea goddess Toyotama-hime (on the left) and her lady in waiting. He painted this work in the town of Haga, Tochigi Prefecture, the location of his lover Fukuda Tane’s family home. In 1907, he submitted it in the Tokyo Industrial Exhibition, held in Ueno Park, and was apparently disappointed that it only won third prize.
March Paul KLEE Island
Klee’s passion for music is reflected in his use of symbols suggestive of notes and scores in his paintings. He also incorporated his interpretation of the musical method of polyphonic composition. Polyphony is a form of music in which distinct melodic lines proceed at the same time, each maintaining its independence. In this painting, three melodic lines are in play: areas of dilute red, blue, and yellow extend over the brown ground, a thick line defines the island, and dots cover the entire surface. While appreciating each of those melodies separately, we enjoy the counterpoint and harmony in the painting as whole. The dots in this painting, reminiscent of musical notation, are unrelated to the pointillist dots of color associated with Signac, Matisse, and Mondrian.
April FUJISHIMA Takeji Distant View of Awajishima
This painting of the island of Awajishima shows the view of it from Maiko, long a favored area for summer homes in the city of Kobe. The setting is the point at which the Akashi Straits, between Kobe on the main island of Honshu and Awajishima, are at their narrowest; it is now the location of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. In his sixties, Fujishima turned to painting the scenery in many places with all the passion of a landscape artist. This work, which he created at the age of 62, was the starting point in his exploration of that new field of creative activity. Here a well-balanced group of several houses, including Western-style homes, is arranged on a slope rising from the south, along with fields and trees. The surface of the sea extending into the offing can be described less as calm, with no waves, than as rendered simply, even flatly. Awajishima, on the opposite shore, stretches horizontally, as though to divide the sky from the sea.
May Raoul DUFY The Jetty of Deauville
Deauville is a town in the department of Calvados, in Normandy, France. Formerly a fishing village, it developed in the 19th century into a resort area. Since then it has been a favorite place for the Parisian bourgeoise to spend their leisure time. When the railroad reached the nearby town of Trouville, Deauville’s beaches grew even more popular, and the town became equipped with not only its harbor but also palatial villas, casinos, and hotels. In the winter of 1906, Dufy, who was from Le Havre, a major port in Normandy, energetically painted views of Deauville. In them his style, with its refined use of color a distinctively open sense of space, has become fully formed. In this painting’s gentle hues and application of color we see the delicate sensibility characteristic of Duffy.
June KANAYAMA Heizo Harbor
This scene of a harbor town is captured from a vantage point high above it. The diagonal composition so characteristic of Kanayama intensifies the sense of depth. The sea stretches out far into the distance, and then touches the sky. The boats lead the viewer’s eye deeper, and the boat heading out of the harbor, sending up white spray as it cleaves the waves, adds motion to the scene. It is not certain what harbor he has depicted here, but it is hypothesized that it might be that of Kobe, where he was born.This painting was shown for the first time at the Kanayama Heizo: Fifty Years of Painting exhibition in 1956. It is difficult to pin down its date; our only clue is that it was grouped in that exhibition with his “third period (1945, the end of the war, to the present).”
July KOGA Harue Women by the Sea
Ashiya, where Koga is thought to have produced this painting, is an area at the mouth of the Onga River that developed hand in hand with the Chikuho coalfield. It was also known as a seaside swimming spot. Koga, who had visited there in the summer, returned there for a time in the winter of 1922. In September, having won the Nika Prize, Koga visited the exhibition, which was held in Ueno, Tokyo. He reported to Matsuda Teisho, a somewhat older painter back in Kurume, that he was amazed at the excellence of the paintings around him at the exhibition site in Ueno, Tokyo. They were generally more deft, the colors more beautiful, bright, and light, than before. Then, two months later, he reported again, “My By the Sea was a failure; I am disappointed but will try again.” In this work, in which he depicted women in brightly colored bathing suits, Koga took up a new subject, swimming at the seaside, a popular form of recreation in the Taisho period.
August AOKI Shigeru Seascape
The horizon is close to the top of this oblong seascape. In it, the sea is in motion in all directions: the waves tossing up further away from the horizon strike the rocks in the foreground, becoming white billows. This painting, like A Good Catch, was created on the Mera coastline of the Boso Peninsula in 1904. The volcano fuming along the upper left of the painting is located on the island of Izu Oshima. The influence of Monet and other French Impressionists is clear in Aoki’s treatment of the rocks and the surging waves, but that influence has been thoroughly assimilated into Aoki’s own style. After Aoki’s death, this painting remained for many years in the collection of the poet Kanbara Ariake. Kanbara called it “A painting by a magician” and stated that “Aoki couldn’t have painted this without his own creative, free, bold impressionism.”
September Paul SIGNAC Port of Concarneau
Concarneau is a port in Brittany, in western France. In the summer of 1891, Signac set out from this spot in his beloved sailboat, the Olympia, for Saint-Tropez, on the Côte d’Azur. Signac would later produce a travel diary in watercolors of the ports of France he visited during that journey. When he revisited Concarneau in 1925, however, he created oil paintings, including this one. In his hands, the Pointillist technique Seurat had initiated has been modified to working in small fragments of color, in a mosaic-like effect. In this work, the sea, the sky, and the boats, and the lighthouse visible between them are all rendered in small strokes of blue, pink, orange, and yellow to produce a brilliantly decorative effect.
October Eugène BOUDIN The Beach near Trouville
When the railway reached Trouville, on the coast of Normandy, in 1863, it became a popular leisure destination for affluent members of the haut bourgeoisie in Paris. The driving force behind that development of the railroads and resort areas was the Duc de Morny, half brother of Emperor Napoléon III, who, engaging the Empress Eugénie in his plans, turned this coast into a luxurious holiday resort area. Eugène Boudin painted the scenery of Trouville and nearby Deauville to great critical success. In this example, the sky stretches across the upper half of the canvas; the lower half is divided into two groups of vacationers, stretching horizontally. The man standing at the right end of the left-hand group is the Baron de Rothschild; the woman in white sitting in the center of that group is the Empress Eugénie.
November André LHOTE Seashore
As the railroads grew across France in the 19th century, city dwellers became able to enjoy their leisure time in areas outside the city. Swimming in the sea, which had been regarded as a form of medical treatment, became a popular form of recreation. Fashions were also changing. Women had been freed from the corset at the beginning of the 20th century and were wearing clothing suitable for more active lifestyles. Their swimming costumes changed from garments that covered the entire body to more functional gear that was easy to move in even when wet. Starting in the 1920s, swimsuits with short skirts and even skirt-less, onepiece swimsuits became fashionable. The two women depicted here are wearing those newly fashionable one-piece suits. Lhote composed with geometric forms, emphasizing the planar, but was also, as we can see here, interested in contemporary fashions.
The sky blue, a large “V,” dominates the canvas, with white areas left unpainted here and there. The area thinly painted in blue at the lower edge of the picture reveals another color, showing faintly thorough it, adding a sense of depth. The uninhibited brushwork gives a sense of the motion of the wind. In 1976, Nomiyama built a studio in the town of Shima, in Fukuoka (Itoshima City). There he has created several works with natural subjects-the sea as viewed from his balcony, the sky, the wind. This painting was created in that studio. Rather than trying to reproduce his subject using objective, realistic methods, Nomiyama is profoundly interested in conveying the mass of his subject and the atmosphere that its presence generates. This work presents a subject no hand can grasp, the wind, as it changes moment by moment.