Hiroshima Museum of Art

Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and many more works by great modern European painters are on display in this very pleasant city center museum. Hiroshima Museum of Art is a private museum, established in 1978 by Hiroshima Bank to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its foundation. Its collection is divided between about 90 modern European paintings by many well known artists, and about 90 works by modern Japanese painters in the Western style.

With its European collection, although focusing on the Impressionists, the museum aims to provide an overview of the 150 years of modern European painting from French Romantic period to the Ecole de Paris. Just about all of the 90 paintings are by well-known artists, including Delacroix, Courbet, Corot, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rousseau, Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Utrillo, Chagall, and Modigliani. There are also several pieces of sculpture.

The other half of the collection displays about 90 examples of yōga Western style oil paintings by Japanese artists from its beginnings in the late 19th and early 20th century to the present. These include works two of its leading exponents Kuroda Seiki and Kishida Ryusei. Several special exhibitions held throughout the year (the price of admission to apecial exhibitions also includes admission to the permanent collection).

Small and manageable, a visit to the Hiroshima Museum of Art provides an excellent opportunity (especially if you go on a weekday) to view works by some of the world’s greatest painters at a relaxed pace free from crowds. The European art is displayed in a distinctive round building (described by one author as, “Like a muffin”) in the center of a walled compound, which lies beyond the museum foyer and gift shop. On entering the building, you find yourself in a kind of circular courtyard, in the center of which stands a bronze statue of Venus by Maillol, bathed in natural light coming from a glass cupola set into the top of the domed ceiling. On the walls which encircle the central space are some lovely sketches, also by Maillol. From here you take your pick of the four galleries which also encircle the central area.

The range on display means that it is likely to be at least something to please most visitors. The museum owns eight paintings by Picasso which cover the artist’s career from 1900 through to 1970, and the museum owns one of three versions of Daubigny’s Garden painted by Van Gogh in the final months of his life. My personal favorites are the paintings by Soutine and a study from Rodin’s controversial Monument to Balzac.

Lists and photographs of paintings in each gallery

My most recent visit was on a weekday afternoon at a time when was no special exhibition showing. There were only only two or three other visitors in the museum, so we each had a room of our own, so you can really take your time and get up close to the works of art on display.

Finally, Robert Ginsberg has this to say on the Hiroshima Museum of Art in his essay in Philosophy and architecture;

The art works in Hiroshima are more beautiful because they are in Hiroshima. This museum maximizes their existence as human joys. This would be a good art museum anywhere in the world. Though upon entering the museum we tend to forget that we are in Hiroshima, or even in Japan, the statue under the dome lovingly reminds us before we leave that this slection and arrangement is an achievement of Hiroshima. The museum addresses what it is to live in a city that had been destroyed by an atom bomb but which insists on its worth as civilized community. “Here in Hiroshima,” the museum says to us, “we know the value of beauty and love.”

Opening hours: 09:00-17:00
Closed: December 29-January 2

Adult ¥1000
College & High School Students ¥500
Elementary School Students ¥200

Admission to special exhibitions varies, but usually includes admission to the permanent collection. You can find a list of the museum’s paintings on load to other museums in Japanese here.

Address: 3-2 Motomachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima-ken
Tel: 082-223-2530

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Paul Walsh

Paul arrived in Hiroshima "for a few months" back in 1996. He is the co-founder of GetHiroshima.com and loves running in the mountains.