Takayama 5: More Art Nouveau

Hida Takayama Museum of Art [cont]:
Among the many fascinating exhibition rooms, we particularly liked the third and fourth rooms. Room 3 had a number of reproductions of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work, including room divider and lighting from “Hill House”, a house he designed in Glasgow, and the “Willow Tea Room”. The modern silver chairs in the tearoom must have been eye-catching for their time. In the centre was a huge baronial-style table that hinted of pre-Raphaelite tendencies but with echoes of a medieval castle. In the final room we saw highlighted the work of the Vienna Secession group, architects, designers and artists, who rejected the “Revival”style so popular at the end of the 19th century. They embraced a “Holy Spring” philosophy, referring to their youthful energy, developing their artistic vision using the ideals of John Ruskin and William Morris (who were also popular, it must be said, in the fin de siecle period). Among members were Josef Hoffman, Otto Wagner and the now well known Gustav Klimt. The underlying belief was that style comes from necessities. Everyday household items should be beautiful, simple and practical, furniture uncomplicated where elegant design was all that was needed to attain beauty. On display were bentwood chairs, a dining table, summer house chairs, and a sideboard with its dramatic triangular back – much different to the previous Art Deco collections. Next Nagano.


The Indian scholar of long ago Shankara says this:
“People grow old and die because they see others grow old and die”.
Make what you will of this!

Takayama 4: An Art Nouveau Surprise

47Walking back from the Hida village we almost missed what was a great experience, a small sign indicating the Hida Museum of Art, focussing on Art Nouveau and Art D├ęcor. This hardly appears in the tourist guides but is a Japanese highlight (for us anyway). The exhibitions of varying Art Nouveau styles are held within a breath-taking modern building, black metal arranged around and through window spaces (who is the architect?). A walkway connects various displays, with marvellous views to the mountains. While there are extensive collections (made by a typically anonymous Japanese collector of immense wealth), the masterpiece around which the museum is designed is Rene Lalique’s fountain. It dates from October 1926, when the Champs-Elysees arcade was opened to great acclaim. A pair of Lalique fountains were set on a corridor style patio called “Gallery Lido”. The idea was for an ultra-modern 6 floor shopping precinct to rival the Place Vendome and L’Opera. The fountains were made of amethyst colour glass and metal with 4 panels, each of which has a motif of Acanthus leaves, above which were women figure who wore their hair long reaching to their feet and holding shells in their hands (the “source de la fountaine”).Lalique was a master jewellery designer during the Art Nouveau period. He applied lost-wax casting on glass works, which was a manufacturing process of jewellery, producing exquisite perfume bottles for Francois Coty. This led to the mass production of glass works (one room has a large collection of such bottles – great stuff). Unfortunately the Gallery Lido was pulled down just before the Great Depression. One of the pair of fountains was miraculously discovered in almost perfect condition in a suburban shed in Paris in 1989. It was restored by Lalique fans and was part of a travelling exhibition, which came to Tokyo in 1992, creating a sensation. Somehow it was purchased and is now living quietly in Takayama, protected from earthquakes by advanced technology. Glass, light and water are united. In a masterful way the light is brought to the domed ceiling, with constantly changing colours to complement the fountain coloration. Do see it if you can. More soon.