The philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto, and also author of The Transfiguration of the Commonplace said, “I would like someday to make a pilgrimage to Clos-Saint-Pierre, but only because the marvellous landscapes drawn of it by the Japanese painter Chuta Kimura so enchant my vision that I cannot take my eyes of them when I see them.” That a cerebral writer like Danto should say such a thing amazes me.
Rainy Clouds, 1987, by Chuta Kimura
Danto went on to say, “…my own first encounter with Kimura’s art, an image on the cover of the catalogue of his 1985 exhibition…was left on my desk…from that cover reproduction alone I knew, immediately and absolutely, that Kimura was among the great artists of the world. The painting shown was evidently a landscape. But no actual landscape could have held my attention as passionately and strongly as this extraordinary image did. I had, I realize, grown disenchanted with beauty. I had thought too long of painting in terms of the philosophical questions it raised, as if art were a dislocated form of philosophy itself. Kimura brought back to life for me the irreducible and unanalyzable powers of painting at its highest level. The discovery of a new painter is like the discovery of a new world. One element in the excitement I felt upon seeing that cover image was the promise of a sort of visual brilliance Gauguin might have supposed would fill his eyes when he stepped off the boat at Tahiti from Paris. Kimura burst upon my consciousness, as he did upon that of some other Americans, at a time when the last thing anyone expected was a new artist of this magnitude. I live close to the art world, and had the sense that among important artists I knew everyone there was to know, as we say. I felt, indeed, not only that I knew who was painting what, but that all the possibilities of art were structured by a finite array of approaches – abstraction, expressionism, minimalism, and the like. There have always been young artists clamouring to break into the art world – but here was a mature artist who had touched greatness and hardly anyone in America, so far as I knew, was at all aware of his existence. I turned the pages of the catalogue in growing amazement, hardly daring to believe that the promise of the cover illustration could be renewed and extended by the sequenced of paintings and drawings that followed. My first and direct encounter with Kimura’s work was at his first New York showing… Entering that space really was like setting foot in a bright new world. One painting seemed especially appropriate as a metaphor for the experience. It was of a garden gate, and it was in fact the most recent painting to have been completed before the show. Kimura was himself excited by it and anxious to share the exhilaration he felt in painting it. My wife and I realized that Kimura must have felt at every moment that same sense of exploring a new world as we did, looking at his paintings. A crucial ingredient in the visual intensity of the work was clearly the artist’s own adventure in bringing it to life. This intensity of his pleasure came from working within a world in which nothing could be taken for granted, so that the act of painting became predicated on a sense of total anticipation. It was the work of a happy sensibility, of an artist for whom everything outside his life as a painter must have seemed muted, distant, secondary. Kimura’s relationship to his art must have been close to that ecstatic engagement with a radiant reality one reads about occasionally in the literature of mysticism.”
The above is a quote from the article “Discovering Kimura” by Arthur C Danto
Catalogue cover image, “Field”, 1984, Phillips Collection
In his book, ”Encounters & Reflections: Art in the Historical Present”, Danto refers to Kimura when discussing the work of David Sawin. The quote below may simply reflect Danto’s own feelings for painting in many respects, but he nevertheless expresses what many also feel about certain painters:
“I felt myself to be in the presence of something irresistible, like a nimbus, self-contained in its intense illumination, which drew and held me with a force like love.
There are fine painters whose works never transmit this order of charm, and there are others in whom one feels its presence as stifled, like a buried ember. Sawin is a painter who attains it so consistently that it is almost a defining attribute of his work. There can be very few artists of whom this is true. It is true of Cezanne, certainly, as I feel it to be of Motherwell. It never stopped being true of Morandi, and I felt it immediately in the work of Chuta Kimura, whose death last year robbed the world of an artist as great and nearly as unknown to the world at large as Sawin himself. These are all masters of incandescence, that presence in their work of something as difficult to characterize but as easy to recognize as spirit, which is there independently of the discoveries that have earned some of them places in the history of art.”
Juin dans le midi, 1980, oil on canvas, 130 x 152 cms
Article by Arthur C Danto in The Nation, July 4/11, 1987:
Chuta Kimura’s paintings, which are among my great enthusiasms, could not on the other hand have been painted by anyone but a Japanese working in France. These facts penetrate the work in the sense in which comparable facts are external to international paintings.
It is an internal fact about Kimura’s work that he saw the paintings of Bonnard in Japan and perceived France through that artist’s perception of it. This was in 1941, and the experience defined the vision of a distant landscape that became a permanent passion, almost in the sense of imprinting that we find in animal psychology. Kimura wanted nothing more than to be there, amidst the mimosa and bougainvillea, the purples and oranges and vegetal greens, the unforgiving blues of meridional skies and the baked browns of spare hills. The colors of his paintings are French colors, and the spaces are those of Bonnard, where the landscape seems to lie vertically before the viewer, as if rising up to engulf him.
When, in the early 1950s, Kimura was able to consummate the desire, to see with his eyes the intoxicating aridity and the luxuriance of Provence, it was, one feels, as someone visually obsessed, and he stayed in France from then on. Yet it is characteristic of his complex relationship with the landscape that he remained, one might say, absolutely Japanese, to the point of never learning to speak French, so that he lives surrounded by a bubble of silence. This has enabled him to retain the freshness of perception of a distant yearner who knew the reality first through pictures: he lives in France as one might, impossibly, participate in events one first read about in books. He addresses the landscape finally with the manual energy available only to someone who carries in his reflexes styles of swordsmanship and calligraphy that are archetypically Japanese. It is a fusion of two modalities of perception and gesture that coexist in a state of tension and even of conflict.
You can subtract neither the Frenchness of the one nor the Japanese- ness of the other from the canvases in which they strive together and against one another. Even his signature, the Japanese name written in Latin characters, carries this double energy: looking at his work I trace and retrace the letters hypnotically, as if watching the movements of one who is altogether familiar and yet remains a mystery, and from whom one cannot lift one’s eyes.
Because of its gestural aggressiveness, because of the physicality of pigment as Kimura uses it, his work will inevitably be seen as Abstract Expressionist in inspiration. But it is neither Abstract nor Expressionist. If anything, his work is Impressionist, and he sees himself as being in the same line as Monet. The paintings answer to the stimulus of definite places, corners of gardens or parks, streets, farms, houses and chairs or bicycles and cascades of vegetation or rows of trees and shadows and clouds that must have been there when he made his notations. But the response is not passive and retinal, as Impressionism was obliged to be, insisting as it did on visual exactitudes and using theories of color and optical physiology to underwrite its effects. The duality of Realism or Expressionism almost defines the options available to a Western painter, who must either show what is there, like a camera, or express his feelings about what is there. But Kimura, I believe, does neither, and it is his ability to occupy a third position, not intermediate between these but alternative to them, that may be referred to his Japanese roots. It is as though he wanted the landscape to express itself, wants there to come to the surface what does not necessarily meet the eye: a force, a stirring, a shifting and a wildness, a spirit one has to provoke by some counter-energy on the artist’s part.
It is as though the landscape were some sleeping dragon disguised as hills and meadows, as some peaceful place, but which, with enough prodding, reveals its true power, dissolving into something that writhes and whips and flashes before it subsides back into colors and shapes, leaving the memory of something untamed.
Field, 1986, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Landscapes like Kimura’s reveal, it seems to me, the visualistic premises of Western art, which support the conclusion that nature is something to be seen, that our relationship to it is external, the stance of responders or witnesses rather than of participants or beings engaged with it. It suddenly occurred to me that he is carrying forward a tradition of Japanese art whose most familiar example is The Great Wave of Hokusai — is there a single Western work that really shows nature seething with the dwarfing force of that wave? — or perhaps the magnificent screen of irises by Korin, which visitors to the Metropolitan Museum know so well and which now forms the climax of the latter’s newly installed Japanese wing. Those irises stand like green blades, dominated by the gardener’s and finally the artist’s countervailing will. Will: perhaps that ultimately accounts for the difference between the way the non-German artists are “in” Berlin and the way Kimura is “in” France. It is as though we were dealing with different prepositions altogether.
Chuta Kimura, Painting, 1986, 100 x 100 cms
Mai, 1983, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cms
“Discovering Kimura” by Arthur C Danto
Contemporanea, November, 1989:
Pascal famously complained that painting is a frivolous art, for it attaches us to the images of things that themselves would not greatly engage us. Elsewhere, he speaks of eloquence as a kind of painting: it paints our thoughts, transforming them “into pictures rather than portraits.” A portrait, for Pascal, would evidently be an image so transparent that it yields the visual equivalent of some scene or thing or person as these would be presented to the senses without the mediations of art. A portrait would be an image we see through to the reality it shows. There is, of course, an ideal of verbal transparency as well, where words exhaust their function in disclosing meaning, without calling attention to themselves. So poetry, too, would be a “frivolous” art if it attaches us to the verbal representations of things that themselves would not otherwise engage us.
Pascal seems to have thought of painting as a kind of added coloration, like lip rouge or eye shadow, heightening, or accenting, or prettifying. Still, it is striking that he should have seen painting as an art that attaches us to images. For there is, after all, a kind of art which causes us to be attached to the objects it shows by presenting them in some enhanced way. Such an art gives us a picture it also causes us to believe is a portrait, to continue with Pascal’s vocabulary. I speak of showing something in a flattering light, for example, where the artist endeavors to show the subject as more beautiful or commanding than it really is. Needless to say, this art must not draw attention to the fact that it does this — it must give us the sense that it is “transparent” — or it could not have its intended effect. It would instead display the fact that it was manipulative, causing us to have feelings toward the subject we would not have without benefit of the representation. This art, whose verbal analogue is rhetoric, is a form of pictorial lie. And it is surprising that Pascal condemns painting not for mendacity but for frivolity.
Person seated on Bench, 1986
But the whole great mystery of painting has to do with the way it attaches us to images — to the showing of things rather than the things shown. Poetry intrudes itself between the reader and whatever it may be about, attaching us to phrases and cadences which echo and re-echo in the mind, and which we repeat for the sheer pleasure of feeling the words on the tongue, irrespective even of meaning or truth. And the paintings we love draw us to them again and again, even if what they are of might leave us cold or indifferent. I cannot see too often the scalloped edge of one of Cezanne’s compotiers, though the original would have for me only the interest that Cezanne happened to paint it. I trace and retrace the tremulous division between two bottles by Morandi as if it held some momentous meaning, though it is inconceivable that a bottle against a bottle would move me to anything except a speculation about how Morandi would realize it in paint. I would like someday to make a pilgrimage to Clos St.-Pierre, but only because the marvelous landscapes drawn out of it by Kimura so enchant my vision that I cannot look at them too frequently, and cannot take my eyes off them when I see them. Whatever puritanical disapproval it was that Pascal intended to express, he identified the bewitchment of which great art is capable. One sometimes wonders if Pygmalion after all found happiness with the woman into whom his statue was transformed. He may really have been in love with the image, and wrongly believed it was the object that aroused him — “an image he did grave,” Ovid writes, “Of such proportion, shape, and grace as nature never gave / Nor can to any woman give.”
The ideal of pictorial transparency, which defined ancient theories of mimetic art, insisted that a representation was to have only the aesthetic properties the thing it showed possessed, and to have no further aesthetic properties of its own: a beautiful painting of a woman would have to be a painting of a beautiful woman. Recent theories, which dismiss the possibility of an innocent eye along with insisting that the strategies of pictorial representation have a history, have maintained that realism in any case is a matter of convention. These might encourage us to be dismissive of Pascal’s conception of a non-frivolous, or transparent, pictorial art. Nevertheless, the ideal of transparency remains so central a component in our experience of art, especially today, that we would find ourselves as indignant as Pascal were anyone discovered meddling with it. I refer to the fact that the bulk of our experience with works of art comes from reproductions — from art books and art magazines and slides (in fact, explicitly called “transparencies”). I know art historians who teach in universities so unfortunately located that their students never actually see real paintings or sculptures, and certainly never the ones they study, which are as remote for them as the Forms of Platonic philosophy are, whose appearances are all they know in the cave of the art-history lecture hall. Malraux speaks of these secondary images as composing a musee imaginaire, but whatever the exactitude of this famous theory, there is no question that the reproduction is an image that never attaches us to itself, but only to the object — the painting or statue in question. Obviously, certain properties fail to come through, such as site and scale, and perhaps just as obviously, photographic reproduction is not as transparent as we might care to believe. The degree to which our experience of art is permeated by artifacts of photographic technology is an unexplored topic in the psychology of aesthetic perception. Nevertheless, an extraordinary amount of aesthetic information must come through.
Luxembourg Garden in Winter, 1983, oil on canvas, 73.4 x 92cm
My initial encounter with Kimura was through some reproductions, just as Kimura’s first encounters with Western art came through the pictures in the art books he pored over. These reproductions, in my case certainly and in Kimura’s case dramatically, attached us to the objects they revealed with something like the power of love. So powerfully was Kimura drawn to the works he saw in those images that he was compelled to undertake the journey of his life, to the country — France — that they depicted, as if he felt he must himself confront the landscape of France if he was to paint the way his models— Bonnard, Renoir, Cezanne — themselves painted. Kimura was so possessed by France that nearly his entire lifetime passed, as in a fairy story, without his ever returning to his native land. I often wonder what the reproductions were that he saw, years before he saw so much as a single piece of French art as such, which summoned him to make his extraordinary transit. It is a tribute to the power of images that they can connect us to realities this way, even when they appear in a culture whose pictorial traditions are greatly different from those to which the reproductions belong. I would be surprised, for example, if the photogravures that he may have seen were anything like the one that so excited me when I first saw it, on the cover of the catalogue of his exhibition at the Phillips Gallery in Washington, D.C., in 1985.
That catalogue was left on my desk by my colleague Professor Hidé Ishiguro, who had invited me to meet this painter. She herself had never met him, but someone she knew long before, when they were students together in Japan, was coming through New York with Kimura and his wife. This was Aki Nanjo, who had become so entranced with Kimura’s art that he appeared to be devoting his life to its promotion and celebration. Hide has a vast network of friends, and is constantly hospitable to passers-through. This was but one further occasion for her to demonstrate her gift for gracious hospitality. She knew that I had a long interest in Japanese art, and she had read with enthusiasm a piece in which I memorialized Shiko Munakata, who had been a friend and an inspiration. I cannot pretend that I was especially looking forward to this new artist, whom I had been told spoke neither English nor French (and I speak not a word of Japanese).
Valley, 1980, oil on canvas, 163 × 130 cm
It was characteristically thoughtful of Hide to leave the catalogue for me to see, so that I at least should know what sort of conversation to make. (In truth, one can communicate profoundly without a common language: I had the sense that Munakata and I had a perfect understanding even if our idiom was composed of gestures, pointings and grunts.)
What no one could have counted on was that from that reproduction alone, without even having to open the book and see the other work reproduced there, I should know, immediately and absolutely, that Kimura was among the great artists of the world. The painting shown was evidently a landscape. But no actual landscape could have held my attention as passionately and strongly as this extraordinary image did. Whatever Kimura proved to be as a human being, he had made images so dense with a ferocious beauty that merely to remember them infects me with joy. I had, I realize, grown disenchanted with beauty. I had thought too long of painting in terms of the philosophical questions it raises, as if art were a dislocated form of philosophy itself. Kimura brought back to life for me the irreducible and un-analyzable powers of painting in its highest vocation.
View From the Terrace
The discovery of a new painter is like the discovery of a new world. One element in the excitement I felt upon seeing that cover image was the promise of a sort of visual brilliance Gauguin might have supposed would fill his eyes when he stepped off the boat at Tahiti, a new land of intense colors and sensuous forms and sharp sensations, vivid against the grays of the Paris he had left behind. Kimura burst upon my consciousness the way he did upon that of so many Americans, when the last thing anyone expected was a new artist of this magnitude of achievement. I am one who lives close to the art world, and had the sense that I knew everyone there was to know who was making art, as we say. One felt, indeed, that one knew not only who was painting what but all the possibilities there were, as if the art world were structured by a finite array — Abstraction, Expressionism, Minimalism and the like. There was the constant fact of young artists seeking to break in, constituting a noisy fringe to the art world— but here was a mature artist who had touched greatness, with hardly anyone in America, so far as I knew, at all aware of his existence. I turned the pages of the catalogue in growing amazement, hardly daring to believe that the promise of the cover illustration was renewed and extended by the marvelous sequence of paintings and drawings that had made up an exhibition that I bitterly regretted not having known about.
Fayans village, 1976
My first encounter with Kimura’s work came, however, at the time of his first New York showing, at the Ruth Siegel Gallery. Entering that space really was like setting foot in a bright new world, and one painting seemed especially appropriate as a metaphor for the experience. It was of a garden gate, and it was in fact the most recent painting to have been completed before this show. Kimura was very excited by it, and he was anxious to share the excitement he evidently felt in painting it, and we realized then, my wife and I, that Kimura must himself have felt at every moment that sense of exploring a new world — that it was not merely the extraordinary fact of a new pictorial world for us, but also one for him, at every moment, and that a further component in the visual intensity of the work was the artist’s own adventure in bringing it to life. Kimura transmitted to the viewer his own constant amazement and surprise, as if, for him, at each moment, painting was an absolute unforeseen-ness. The intensity of his pleasure came from working within a world in which nothing could be taken for granted, so that he must have set himself to paint with a sense of total anticipation. It was the work of a happy sensibility, and of an artist for whom everything outside his life as a painter must have been muted, distant, secondary. In truth, one felt in the work the radiance of a religious joy, next to which the ordinary pleasures of even a happy life have barely any weight. Kimura’s relationship to his art must have been close to that ecstatic engagement with a radiant reality one reads about occasionally in the literature of mysticism.
I now have before me, beside my typewriter, the image to which I originally responded with such intensity, and I think I can begin to fathom the reason why, just as Pascal said, it is the image and not the object to which it refers which engages the viewer. It is obviously of a landscape, I suppose at or near Clos St. -Pierre, but the elements of the landscape are reduced by Kimura to certain notations, as if for him they were but occasions for the painting, and exhausted their interest in that. What looks like a road, reduced to an irregular blue line, wanders up from the left-hand corner of the painting and then turns parallel to the bottom edge. The same blue is used for the shadow of a tree which bends over the road. The tree itself, with no botanical identity, is scrubbed in with a smudge of yellow green. And in the distance three notational trees in blue hover like tadpoles above the road. The blue road seems at once to recede into the illusory distance of the picture, and to remain on the surface, as if the work were surface and depth at once, illusion and abstraction together. To the right is an intense green field which verges on a patch of pure cadmium yellow, I suppose sunlight. There is a veil of creamy white scrubbed down over much of the surface, a scrim, at once opaque and translucent, like a yellow mist. In the upper right the paint forms what could be a cloud or could be the sun. Peeking around the edge of the scrim are the intense pure colors the scrim mutes— patches of vermilion and magenta, doubtless referring to flora. But the most astonishing feature of the entire work is a sort of loop, drawn with such looseness and authority that it takes the breath away, cropped by the top edge of the canvas. It is the visual daring of this incredible curve in Prussian blue, almost like a calligraphic notation on the surface of the canvas but which could also be the sun, a cloud, or something more mysterious, to which I return again and again. It condenses so much power, inspiration and aesthetic risk that I believe, intuitively, that Kimura felt, once he laid it down, that nothing more should be expected of this painting. A work which makes a gesture of that sort possible is a masterpiece. An art that makes a masterpiece of that kind possible can only spring from the deepest sources of creative adventure.
I have the feeling that Kimura painted in order that some moment like that should suddenly flash upon the surface of the canvas, like a revelation, and that when it happened, he was through with the work. At the time of his second New York show, on Greene Street, I wrote: It is as though the landscape were some sleeping dragon disguised as hills and meadows, as some peaceful place, but which, with enough prodding, reveals its true power, dissolving into something that writhes and whips and flashes before it subsides back into colors and shapes, leaving the memory of something untamed.
Vent dans la pinede, 1980, 162×130
I think this was right and wrong. It describes exactly the feeling Kimura’s canvases convey, but it mis-locates the object and, in a sense, the antagonist. Kimura was not struggling against a landscape but against its image, which he wanted in some way to reveal its own power. Kimura attaches us, precisely as Pascal said, to the image rather than to the reality to which it corresponds. His are not pictures of a world which reveals its power in a blinding moment of illumination. It is the pictures themselves that are caused to reveal their power by an act of gestural magic all his own.
— Contemporanea, November, 1989
Kimura in his studio
“Fire village”, 1978, oil on canvas, 81 × 116 cm
Le Pont Neuf, 1987, oil on canvas, 130 x 162
Le clos Saint-Pierre, 1986-1987, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Spring of the South Buddha, 1973
Image from printed poster, 1976, 73 x 52 cm
Winter in Paris, 1976, oil on canvas
As mentioned above, Kimura’s work was described by Arthur Danto as a kind of “Impressionist Dazzle.” Kimura’s work is characterized by a style inherited from the double influence that will cross his whole life: on the one hand Japanese culture and, on the other hand, his passion for French painting, and in particular that of Pierre Bonnard.
In his works, the sensitivity to nature, the precision of the chromatic variations, the impressions created by the light make this work appear as an almost abstract field where calligraphic and nervous lines clash with complex ranges of colors. “I especially want to paint,” says the artist, “this world of inner light, to bring out forms other than the shape of objects. It is an impressionism of the soul.”
“Moving to France shortly after the war, Chuta Kimura continued to work in his Paris atelier in the fervent pursuit of something beyond simplicities of East and West. From forest scenes to domestic still life paintings, from the figurative to the abstract, his work gained wide critical acclaim.”
As an update to this blog posting on Kimura, the painter of light who referred to himself as the “impressionist of the soul”, and in view of the interest it has generated, I’d like to add a short but interesting essay written by Mary Cowen several years ago:
Light, order, and fierceness
By Mary S. Cowen, March 6, 1985
The physical act of drawing helps an artist both to examine closely and to fix in the mind the subject at hand. Chuta Kimura is a Japanese master of French painting whose drawings complement his painting. Consider the pictures on these pages. The pencil drawing “Garden at Clos-Saint-Pierre”(1978) conveys the impact of Mediterranean light on Kimura. Large areas of the scene appear to be nearly canceled out by brilliant light, leaving geometrically defined dark holes of shadow for the eye to explore in detail.
Village du Midi, 1985, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
The oil pastel “Garden at Clos-Saint-Pierre, No. 10” (1983), a more realistic rendering, has a zone of interest defined with a rough circle. A bench stands just in front of a more ambiguous volume of space outlined around the edge of the picture but continuing into the shadowy foliage of the tree.
In Kimura’s paintings such areas are specified either by line or by fields of single colors, sometimes overlaid with a trowel, as a series of semi-transparencies. They connect elements of the scene that are visually related, though physically separated. They may also convey a sense of depth, or light, or both. By this means, “On the Field” (1984) has an almost yin/yang or negative/positive vertical division, or unification, depending on how one looks at it.
Landscape of Provence, 1984, oil on canvas
Kimura considers himself to be a successor to Monet in his explorations of the effect of light. (“Drawing is a process of printing the light on one’s soul,” he says.) But it was Pierre Bonnard whose work drew him to France. Kimura, having been stunned by Bonnard’s painting exhibited in Japan, wanted to immerse himself in the atmosphere revealed to him, especially by Bonnard’s use of color. A two-year visit to France for that purpose has become a 30-year residence. In honor of his achievements during that time, the French Ministry of Culture has made him Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Other artists apparently influenced Kimura. A viewer might think of Van Gogh, Dufy, and Matisse, and, in fact, the Japanese consider Kimura to be following Matisse.
What Kimura brings to French painting, in turn, seems to be a Japanese calligraphic, design, and color sense, along with the inner ordering of the artist. That may be what Sadaharu Oh, the Japanese baseball star, calls “spirit-discipline.” He describes it, in his autobiography, as the means by which one’s whole being is brought to bear on the activity of the moment and in which what appears to be an adversary is seen to be not a negative but a positive element, to be used to advantage for good.
In his catalog essay for the Phillips Collection exhibition “Kimura: Paintings and Works on Paper 1968-1984” in Washington, Denys Sutton reports asking Kimura what were “the impulses that made him paint the way he did.” The response was that “he jumped up from his chair, adopted the stance of a boxer, and with much laughter, said that the artist should attack his subject with fierceness.”
Juillet, 1985, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Dans le parc, pencil
Sans titre, 1980, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Juin, 1986-7, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Here’s another brief, yet interesting, comment on Kimura’s work which is published on the web-site below:
“Although Chuta Kimura was Japanese by race, he was undeniably a French artist by heart. Born in Japan in 1917, all of Kimura’s art activities took place in Paris from 1953 onwards. As a Japanese artist groomed in Paris, he lived like a Parisian artist just like the late Tsuguharu Fujita (a.k.a. Leonard Foujita).
Kimura’s works were basically about the air and light in Paris, and he was unable to create works about any place outside Paris. His artworks did not involve anything that was outside Paris. That was probably why he did not agree to hold an exhibition in New York.
Most of his works were abstract artworks but Kimura attempted to achieve the merger of abstract art and realism. As an abstract artist, he expressed light. As an artist of realism, he painted sceneries. It was interesting to note that he was able to portray the shapes of trees, structures, and buildings, but had difficulty with other objects. It is now time to re-evaluate the works of Chuta Kimura, a man with Japanese blood infused with the Parisian spirit.”
Summer Landscape, 1980
Composition, Lithograph, 24 x 19 in
Untitled, circa 1975, Colour lithograph, 76.2 x 53.3 cm
Composition IV, Lithograph, 23 x 19 in
Here’s an article on Kimura’s graphic work:
Chuta Kimura: Pastels and Drawings of Clos Saint-Pierre (2012)
(Translated from the French)
In 2010 we held our first painting exhibition with a selection of works by Chuta Kimura. We are extending this experience today by proposing a set of pastels and drawings made at the Clos Saint-Pierre, the workshop in the wilderness of Chuta Kimura, between 1974 and 1986.
Chuta Kimura was born in Japan in 1917, but almost all of his work was carried out in France, where he lived from 1953, when he arrived in Marseilles, after sailing for two months, until his death in Paris, July 1987, at the age of seventy.
His work is the result of an uncompromising quest, a life entirely devoted to painting. Chuta Kimura encloses himself in a double envelope of solitude to concentrate more on his creation: foreign to his country that he left (he would return only once, for a fortnight, to Japan during his voluntary exile), he does not learn the French language and uses all his energy, all his time, to visit museums, draw and paint. If he was able to live and work in France, it was thanks to the unfailing support and dedication of his wife Sachiko.
Chuta Kimura created a completely personal pictorial language. In the period when abstraction dominates, it integrates formal freedom, but refutes its principle: the painting of Chuta Kimura is a look at the world, eager for the impressions created by light, nature and figuration which is always at the base of his canvases, even if at first glance they appear as a quasi-abstract field where calligraphic and nervous lines confront each other with complex ranges of colors.
But the presence of figurative elements, sometimes only sketched (tree, house, bike, character), always leads us towards the moment of the gaze, the drawing, and thus connects us to the world and reminds us that Kimura’s canvases are an attempt to bring art back to representation, even if it is eminently spiritual and impressionistic, based on the intuition of gesture and color.
Pastels and drawings are closest to this quest. They are the first attempt, the first attempt to create this bond to the world and to create a work of art. From 1967, Kimura and his wife resided every year, from May to September, at the Clos Saint-Pierre, a modest house in a vast wild garden at La Roquette-sur-Siagne (Alpes-Maritimes). It is there that he captures the energy and beauty of the nature that surrounds him, drawing relentlessly, in a quest that engages his whole being, to find the center of the forces that agitate or inspire him, to concentrate on the space, the light, and the movement of the world.
The drawings and pastels made during these summers form an extraordinary collection of works aroused by a place, both closed and infinite, a sort of imperfect paradise,
Despite his isolation, Chuta Kimura was soon discovered and exposed in a country where he didn’t speak the language. Since the 1950s, two French galleries, in Paris and Lyon, and then in New York, began to show his work.
In the early summer of 2018 the Gallery Minotaure in Paris held an exhibition of works by Chuta Kimura, and they published a short but interesting article by Maria Tyl on Kimura:
Summer light! So beautiful! The light is imprinted in my soul. I have always wanted to paint the light that emanates from the inside of the soul  .
Whereas at the end of the 1950s, the situationists announced the disappearance of the artistic field – considering the creation of works as an outdated practice, and that the world of art began to gradually bifurcate towards the concept and all kinds of ephemeral practices or engaged, dismantling the scales of values that for centuries formed the backbone of European art – this exclamation of the painter seems to have remained a dead letter. Who again, in the years 1960-80, is interested in the splinters of the color, the depth of the light or the freedom of the form? These obsolete problems, belonging to a time locked forever in museums …
We are not always of his time.
The artist lives in a region of time that is not necessarily the story of his time  , found in Vie des formes (1934) Henri Focillon.
At a time when young apprentices of Fine Arts destroyed the casts of the glass courtyard of their School, burying the memory of all the artistic revolutions of the past – also that of the Impressionists who brought us into modernity – Chuta Kimura, to deny history, aims to accomplish it:
Only half of Impressionism is over.
The other important half is yet to come.
It is spiritual impressionism.
Spiritual impressionism is the inevitable
Next phase after abstraction.
The art of the world has reached the point of abstraction,
But lost his way.
I am, of course,
Already in the next phase  .
Anachronistic? Reactor? Mandarin? No. Bold.
The adventure of Impressionism is not over for him. The Impressionists have gone a long way in exploring our way of seeing and representing things, but they have forgotten that the visible form is inseparable from the meaning and spiritual content of art; which their contemporary, Heinrich Wölfflin, elaborated. For Kimura, painting is also, if not at most, an inner journey, a work on oneself that is practiced in solitude and in retirement while being a research on light, color and composition.
The artist arrived from Japan in France in 1953 and lived there until the end of his days (1987). One foot in the East and one in the West but still in Japan, Kimura was the opposite of a cosmopolitan: during all these years he did not bother to learn French or adapt to his new homeland. He remained indifferent and closed to anything he thought was secondary to his work. It was to nature as a whole that it remained open, the only one capable of giving man that impression of fullness and the feeling, so dear to Albert Camus, of being in harmony with oneself and with the world. He found all his happiness in a remote village of Provence, Clos-Saint-Pierre, where only his wife kept him company, where nothing and nobody prevented their communion with nature, allowing the abolition of the spatial and temporal landmarks, to reach the universal. This communion can only be realized in the moment, the present. This impression is the essence of the work of Monet and his colleagues.
Yes, I am present. And what strikes me at this moment is that I cannot go further. Like a man imprisoned for life – and everything is there for him. But also as a man who knows that tomorrow will be similar, and also every other day. Because for a man, to become aware of his present, is to expect nothing more. If there are landscapes that are states of mind, they are the most vulgar  , wrote Camus in front of the panorama of his native country.
Yesterday, says Kimura, does not exist for me. Every day is a new day  . Kimura, the painter of his time?
 K. Akutagawa, “Kimura in Paris: His View of Time and Nature”, in Sansai , No. 430, July 1983, p. 52.
 H. Focillon, Life forms , Puf, 1996, p. 95-96.
 Introduction to the solo exhibition at Takarashi Gallery, 1981.
 A. Camus, “The Wind at Djemila”, in Noces followed by Summer , Gallimard, coll. “Folio”, 1959, p. 26.
 Cf . J. Grenier, “A song of nature”, in The Gallery: arts, letters, spectacles, modernity , n ° 101, 1971.
Clouds, 1983, oil on canvas, 51 x 64 ins
Southern French Landscape, 1970
L’été: la maison blanche, 1982, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Arbre, 1985, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Champs (or “July”), 1986, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm,
Juin, 1986-7, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Untitled, 1969-72, oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm
Grasse, 1974, oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm
Noon, 1983, oil on canvas, 39.9 x 39.9 cm.
Untitled, 1975-7, oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Le clos Saint-Pierre, 1986, pastel sur papier Canson, 54 x 77 cm
Au jardin du Luxembourg, 1987, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
jardin du Luxembourg, 1987, oil on canvas, 90 x 90 cm
Le Renouveau, 1987, oil on canvas, 130 x 163 cm
Naples, 1987, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Les pêchers du clos Saint-Pierre, 1978, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Kimura dessinant dans le jardin du Clos Saint-Pierre, 1983
Early Summer, 1987, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Garden at Clos-Saint-Pierre, 1984, oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in.; 80.01 x 80.01 cm.
The Fountain in the Clos-Saint-Pierre, 1972
Sans titre, 1982, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
Persimmon tree, 1970
Summer Day, 1987, oil on canvas, 130 x 163 cm
House on the hill, 1981
Cancale bleue, Oil on canvas, 54.5 x 46 cm. (21.5 x 18.1 in.)
Versailles, 1963, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 100 cm. (39.4 x 39.4 in.)
Vue de Valauris, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm.
Sunset scenery, 1979
July, 1984, oil on canvas, 99.3 × 99.5 cm
Shade of tree, 1983, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
Été dans le midi, 1983
Way up the hill, 1980
Southern Buddha Pegoma, 1974, oil on canvas, 120 × 120 cm
People playing tennis, 1984
Summer in Southern France, 1970s, oil on canvas, 51 x 51 cm
Le Sud de la France, 1982, oil on canvas, 33.3x46cm
Bank of the River Seine, 1971
Clos Saint Pierre, 1966, Lithograph, 38.5 x 37.5 cm.
Cabris, 1976-77, Oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
View of Chateney garden, 1966, Lithograph, 53 x 41 cm
Image from printed poster, 1969, 65 x 42 cm
Summer cloud, 1987
Landscape, 1977, oil pastel on paper, 47.5 x 63 cm
Durush Avenue, 1967, oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm
Winterscape, 14.5 cm × 14.5 cm
Lumiere de Juin, 1983
August, 1983, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Village stairway, 1983, oil on canvas, 80 × 80 cm
Back street of Paris, oil on canvas, 99.9 x 99.9 cm
Tree on the hill, 1986
Road to Cannes, 1977
House in Provence, 1987
Park in Cannes, 1975
Cafe in Cannes, 1980
Village Laundry, 1983
Landscape with Factory, 1985
Nodo in Provence, 1984
Summer Road, 1986
South of France, 1987
South of France, 1983
Yuri’s Flower, 1978
Landscape with utility pole, 1983
Farm in the South France, 1986
Summer clouds, 1983
Golf = Juan, 1968
Montparnasse Avenue, Paris, 1966
Windy day, 1966
Cows and apple tree, 1965
Orleans Church, 1978
Park in Paris, 1980
Small valley, 1986
Grassy Suburbs in Midsummer, 1971
In the Café, 1975
Summer Afternoon, 1982
Midday in November, 1987
Poplar Tree, 1987
Distant Village, 1983
Olive trees in Valoris, 1970, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, 1987
Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, 1987
Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, 1986
Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, 1986
Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, 1983
My garden, 1978
Beach at the seaside, 1987
End of the Road, 1983
Maison-Lafite’s Morning, 1971
Landscape with a bicycle, 1978
Southern France, 1986
Morning light, 1982
View from the hill, 1986
From Saka no top, 1983
Small Diameter, 1987
Village Road, 1965
Tourette, 1970, oil on canvas, 120 x 119.5 cm
People going to Hatake, 1986
Amsterdam Streets, 1976
Paris landscape, 1981
Farm on the hill in Portugal, 1987
Windy Pine Forest, 1980
Peach tree, 1984
Raindrop Park, 1966
Morning in Provence, 1983
Clos-Saint-Pierre in the evening, 1970
May of the South Buddha in Southern France, 1986
Midi’s day-of-night, 1976
People playing Petanque, 1978
Olive tree and greenhouse, 1970
May, 1987, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Small Diameter of a Ranch, 1985
Shade of the Tree, 1983
Shade of the Tree, 1985
Trees and sky, 1984
Peach tree at Clos-Saint-Pierre (when peach blossoms are blooming), 1978
Vineyards and hills, 1985
Va Long, 1982
Shadow of a big tree, 1979
Branches across, 1983
Big Field, 1983
The Garden of Pelotier, 1974
Blue garden 1980
Clos-Saint-Pierre in May, 1986
Under the tree, 1976, oil on canvas, 100 × 100 cm
Landscape: Clouds, 1979
Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, 1987
Village in the South France, 1984
Eiffel Tower seen from Clamart, 1966
La Rocette-sur-Céagne, 1971
After the South Buddha, 1980
Yellow Wall, 1981
Midi Landscape, 1982
Cai’an Landscape, 1981
Garden chair, 1986
Midi, 1980, oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm
Pegoma Village in south of France, 1978
Nice park, 1973
Journey in Provence, 1982
The Thames River, 1973
Village in the valley, 1987
Le Tournant, 1980, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cms
Venice, 1987, oil on canvas, 15.8 x 21.8 cm
Country Road in the South of France, 1984
Eiffel Tower, 1978
Children Playing, oil on canvas, 1984
Eiffel Tower at sunset, 1981
Clos-Saint-Pierre Scenery, 1974
Oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Concorde Plaza, 1971
River Seine, 1974
Provence in July, 1985
Mougins, 1975 – 1976, oil painting, 46 x 55 cm
Hill, 1981, oil painting, 130 x 162 cm
Village in the Pyrenees, 1978
Garden at Clos Saint Pierre, oil pastel
Green hills, 1980, Oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm
Midi Provence, 1975, Huile sur toile, 130 x 162 cm
Hill in Provence, 1984, oil on canvas
Le Clos Saint-Pierre, Pastel.
Portuguese countryside, 1986
Valleyof Vallauris, 1972, oil on canvas, 130 x 163 cm
Paris in Winter, 1974
Vineyard of Mougins, 1973
Village Brewery, 1982
London Tower Bridge, 1973
Apparition to a Wanderer, 1980, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Golf Juan ? 1970
Journey in June, 1981-1982
Dusk at Clos Saint-Pierre, 1968
A view from the hill, 1986
A street in Paris seen from the café, 1974
A Village in Provence, 1986/The road to Provence, 1985
Cai’an Landscape, 1981
Summer in Tourett, 1972
House in the Provence Region, 1987
Fairen Landscape, 1973
Pegoma Village, 1981
Landscape of Nemours, 1967
Village Entrance, 1976
Journey in June, 1981-1982
In the Café, 1977
Golden Light and Dusk, 1974
South of France, 1987
Central Park, 1983
Persimmon tree in La Rochet-sur-Céagne, 1968
Cuccuron Village, 1982
May in Paris, 1975
Spring in the South of France, 1971
Near the Pyrénées, 1980
Slope in the village, 1984
June of the South Buddha, 1985
Tree-lined Driveway at Clos-Saint-Pierre, 1981
Homebound Landscape, 1980
Dog under a fig tree, 1973
From the top of a hill, 1983
The Garden of Shatney, 1963
Velieres landscape, 1966
At Kurasutasupirere, 1986
Midi Landscape, 1974
Kyukuron village, 1982
Hill in Midsummer, 1980
Landscape with a reservoir, 1972
Village Entrance, 1983
Morning at Maison-Lafite, 1971
Paris Landscape, 1983
Landscape at Conflan-Saint-Tonine, 1969
The way to Montreux, 1982
Field in Provence, 1984
Winter Hill, 1986
Terrace at Clos-Saint-Pierre, 1971
Old Port of Nice, 1976
Farmhouse on a hill, 1987
River Seine in Paris, 1966
Landscape in the South of France
Landscape, 1974, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm
Beside a village bench, 1985
Oliviers au Clos St Pierre, circa 1970, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
Small Diameter of Clos-Saint-Pierre” 1986
Landscape, 1974, oil on canvas, 19 x 24 cm
Nice, 1975, oil on canvas, 54.5 x 65 cm
Winter in Brittany, 1966
Sevres Landscape, 1961, oil on canvas, 65 x 100 cm
Travelling Bus, 1971
Landscape, 1964, oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm
House on the Hill, 1982
Jardin du Chatenay, circa 1962, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm
Road in a Landscape, 1980
Golfe Juan, 1970, oil on canvas, 33 x 45.5 cm
Namiki no Namiki, 1982
Untitled, circa 1977, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Untitled, 1972 – 1984, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Hill in June, 1987
Automne – Jardins de Sceau, circa 1951, oil on canvas, 50 x 65 cm
Provence, 1986, oil on canvas, 14 x 22 cm
People Walking” 1982
Landscape, 1976, oil on canvas, 22 x 27 cm
Landscape, circa 1960, oil on canvas, 33 x 41 cm
Place du Village, 1985, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
Castle Landscape, 1984