Current Exhibition (Dec 21st 2018 – May 26th 2019)

The History of the BIZEN-SWORD

Exhibition Overview

In this exhibition, we showcase our collection of 備前刀 ”BIZEN-TOU” (swords made in BIZEN province,) which has been not only a major sword brand but also a big key to understanding the history of Japanese swords. The blades of BIZEN-TOU have the common characteristics of their shining JIGANE (the pattern of the blade’s steel,) strikingly clear HAMON, and gentle reflections resembling spring haze.

“BIZEN” province is the ancient name of modern day Okayama prefecture, located in the western area of the main island of Japan. BIZEN province was the largest production area of Japanese swords in the 11th -16th centuries. Some of the factors leading to their outstanding developments in the sword making industry were that they had their own iron mines, they used a high quality iron manufacturing method known as “Tatara,” and they had good distribution bases in the SETO inland sea.

For the 500 years of the 11th -16th centuries, the various sword smiths and groups featured in this exhibition appeared and flourished in BIZEN province. Tragically, the 1591 flooding of the YOSHII River in BIZEN province brought ruin upon all of them. The BIZEN-TOU which have survived are engraved with the date of their creation, making them as important as historical records and helping us to trace the evolution of Japanese swords.

[Hours of Operation]
10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. (admission until 5:30 p.m.)
Closed on December 25,28,29,30,31, January 1,2,3,4,7,15,21,28, February 4,12,18,25,26,27,28, March 4,11,18,25, April 1,8,15,22, May 7,13,20

[Admission Fee]
General ¥1,000
High school students ¥500
Children under15 free
Groups(20 people or more) ¥800

Current Exhibition (March 1st – May 26th 2019)

Pursuing the Ideals of Figure and Portraiture
- Koiso Ryohei's Elegant Works of Art -

Exhibition Overview

Koiso Ryohei (1903-1988), born in Kobe, Japan, was a western-style Japanese painter who pursued the classical ideals of European art. This exhibition introduces his excellent oil paintings and traces his drawing history, including printings and sketches.

He drew many elegant figures and portraits of women and men throughout his life. As he said “I would like to create works of art in a style similar to historical classic oil paintings.” His goal was to express the ideals of Classical European art – honoring the Ancient Greek and Roman cultures, as well as the Renaissance, which were innovative times in terms of how the human figure could be incorporated into the composition. This is why he depicted so many human figures in his works.

Koiso was also quite unique in the Japanese western-style painting society in that he could understand academic art history and techniques from Europe with regards to their views of mythology and Christianity. This was probably due to his childhood circumstances – he grew up in a pious Christian family which operated a foreign trade business in Kobe, which was the largest international harbor city in Japan in the 20th century.

Please enjoy these great pieces by the modern successor to European classicism in Japan.

Artwork Explanation

This piece is a typical portrait made by Koiso after WWII, with a soft-colored background and realistic expression of the model. Our research shows that this man is possibly a prominent businessperson who achieved great success while living in Kobe City at the same time as Koiso.

At one time, portraiture was considered one of the highest forms of painting in the Hierarchy of the European Genres, so Koiso directed all his energy into how to depict a model’s body and soul on canvas in that historical style.

The sketches by Koiso are very popular among his fans because of their beautiful brush strokes, and Koiso’s ability to convey the elegance and purity of a model’s figure and spirit. Koiso said “The sketches are an important foundation for the oil paintings.” According to his own words, Koiso created enormous amounts of sketches during his life. In the 18th - 19th centuries, the Royal Art Academy in France traditionally provided students with a curriculum of sketches as part of their formal education. It can be assumed that Koiso was aware of that fact from his youth onward.

Unlike the artists in Europe, Japanese western-style artists rarely made printed works during Koiso’s time. While working as a professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts in 1950, Koiso facilitated the establishment of a printing education program in the University. After establishing it, he himself explored various expressions with printing techniques. Printing techniques maximize the beautiful sketch lines in Koiso’s artworks.

[Hours of Operation]
10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. (admission until 5:30 p.m.)
Closed on March 4,11,18,25, April 1,8,15,22, May 7,13,20

[Admission Fee]
General ¥1,000
High school students ¥500
Children under15 free
Groups(20 people or more) ¥800