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[Museum Guide: PDF]

The Okawa Museum of Art opened in April, 1989 overlooking the city of Kiryu, a textile center. About 1,600 works of art have been collected over a period of 40 years by the museum's founder, Eiji Okawa. The museum, deceptively small on first notice, is built in stages on the hillside and provides its visitors with an amazing number of rooms to peruse its incredibly rich collection.
The core of the collection is Japanese modern paintings, especially the works and materials of Shunsuke Matsumoto (1912-1948) and Hideo Noda (1908-1939). The museum's collection of these two artists is the best in Japan in both quantity and quality.
In Room #1 one can survey an exhibit of Japanese art in the Western-style painted over the past 100 yeas. Next, in Room #2, the center of the museum, the works of Matusmoto, Noda and their contemporaries are exhibited, demonstrating various forms of human relationships. The museum takes the perspective that artworks are prepresentative of the artists themselves, and so the works in the museum are collected and arranged thematically, according to their artistic stance.
photoRoom #3 is arranged in the same fashion. There one can examine contemporary Japanese works of art. Room #4 is arranged in like manner, exhibiting the works of foreign artists such as Picasso and Ernst. The Special Exhibition Room on the bottom floor is reserved for temporary exhibitions which are held every two or three months.

photo of KiryuThe museum urges you to take advantage of the home-like atmosphere to enjoy the masterpieces displayed in the various rooms. When you finally arrive on the bottom floor, the Tea Room is a pleasant place to relax and enjoy a beautiful view of Kiryu.

photoShunsuke Matsumoto was born in Tokyo in 1912 and spent his boyhood in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. At the age of 17 he returned to Tokyo where he worked as an oil painter. He died in 1948 at the age of 36. Althpugh during his lifetime Matsumoto was obscure, he gained prominence after his death as a humanistic wartime artist. His beautiful, severe, yet warm paintings will live on through the ages.

Matsumoto lost his hearing soon after entering high school. At that time he began painting with oil colors which his family had given him for consolation. After moving to Tokyo he studied at the Taiheiyo Gakai Institute where he made many good friends... Saburo Aso, Masao Tsuruoka, Tatsuoki Nanbata, A-Mitsu, and others. Matsumoto exhibited his humanistic pictures one after another.
During the war Matsumoto established the Shinjin Gakai group, and continued to paint genuine works of art which reveal both human sorrow and pleasure even during the dark war years.
Although it was assumed that Matusmoto would continue his career after the war, he met an early death in 1948, exhausted from his work during the war.
Matusmoto may be the only artist who could paint Tokyo so beautifully, creating the imagery of a cosmopolitan "hometown."

photoHideo Noda, a second generation Japanese-American, was born in California in 1908. At the age of three he was taken to Kumamoto, his father's hometown. He returned to the United States after finishing high school and entered the California School of Fine Arts where he became acquainted with Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Toshi Shimizu.
Noda was awarded the Woodstock Art Prize and the Maria Stone Prize. He became the assistant of the well-known artist, Diego Rivera, and joined the Rockefeller Center mural painting project which attracted the attention of the American art world.
Noda returned to Japan in 1934 and exhibited "Way Home" (the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo) and "City" (Okawa Museum of Art), which had a rejuvenating influence on the Japanese art world.
Noda's influence on Matsumoto is also well known. Like Matsumoto, Noda didn't adhere to authority or strive after a false reputation. He was a humantistic painter who turned his eyes to the world of the mind and continued painting the working class, immigrants, circus performers, the unemployed and children from the bottom strata of society. In 1938 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor but continued to paint, holding his eyelids open with adhesive tape. Noda died prematurely at the age of 30.

Adapted from the Museum pamphlet by KIEA.

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Kiryu, Gunma


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