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National Gallery paintings tour to Japan for the first time

Issued January 2019


Tokyo - National Museum of Western Art
March 3 – June 14 2020

Osaka - National Museum of Art
July 7 – October 18 2020

The National Gallery, in partnership with The Yomiuri Shimbun, one of the largest media organisations in Japan, is delighted to announce that we will present an unprecedented loan of outstanding works from the National Gallery Collection in the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London', at the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo and the National Museum of Art, Osaka in 2020, the year of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The exhibition of some sixty paintings, ranging from the Italian Renaissance to the beginning of the 20th century, will provide a comprehensive insight into the history of our holdings, and we look forward to providing visitors in Japan with the opportunity to experience the quality and breadth of the National Gallery’s Collection. A major highlight will be Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers which will be seen in Japan for the first time.

'Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London' marks a significant moment in the Gallery’s near 200-year history. It comprises the largest selection of our paintings to tour internationally, and sharing these exceptional works with Japan will enable us to further our global reputation as one of the world’s greatest collections of Western European art.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London says:

“Coinciding with Japan’s Olympic year in 2020, we will be presenting a superb selection of pictures in Tokyo and Osaka which tell the story of the National Gallery. In this unprecedented exhibition the Gallery will share its collection and its expertise with new audiences and we hope to inspire a passion for our great paintings in new generations.”

Jeremy Wright, UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport :

“Arts and culture are important building blocks to strong friendships between nations. Japan and the UK have enduring creative links and this ground breaking exhibition will strengthen the National Gallery’s international reputation even further. By sharing the treasures from our world-leading museums and galleries, we can promote the very best of Britain to the globe.”

Ms Akiko Mabuchi, Director General of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo says:

“It gives me great pleasure to be able to hold an exhibition of works from the National Gallery, London, which houses one of the world’s pre-eminent collections of artworks, at The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. I have visited the National Gallery many times since my university days. Every time I went there, I was overwhelmed by the numerous great paintings on the walls. The vividness of the modern paintings, centring on French paintings, are all the more impressive especially after appreciating Renaissance and Baroque paintings characterised by rich, deep colours, and with a sense of solemnness. Most notable is 'Sunflowers' by Vincent van Gogh, which is one of the first series of sunflower paintings executed in Arles in the south of France from August to September 1888. Van Gogh executed these paintings to welcome and impress Paul Gauguin who was to come and stay with him. This masterpiece, rendered in bold, undulating brushstrokes using bright yellow colours, is certainly a highlight of Van Gogh’s rather brief period filled with feelings of happiness.”

Mr Toshio Yamanashi, Director of the National Museum of Art, Osaka says:

“In Europe, each country has museums where people can enjoy a great abundance of paintings to their heart’s content. The Louvre, the Uffizi Gallery, the Prado, Berlin State Museums, and the Rijksmuseum, to name a few, would never fail to offer a fascinating experience to viewers through their eyes and minds. The National Gallery in London is no exception. The Gallery boasts a collection of paintings from all over Europe, covering the span of 600 years from the Renaissance to the Post-Impressionist era. Each and every painting in the Gallery has a captivating radiance, which makes viewers stop here and there in the galleries and contemplate the work in front of them with wonder. This time, selected masterpieces that rarely leave the Gallery’s walls will be shown at exhibitions in Japan. My heart is brimming with joyful expectation for this rare opportunity to immerse myself in the rich stories told by the great paintings”.


Exhibition organised by The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, the National Gallery, London, and The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The Yomiuri Shimbun


The National Museum of Western Art, Ueno-koen, Tokyo
3 March – 14 June 2020

The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Nakanoshima, Osaka
7 July – 18 October 2020

The National Gallery

The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of Western European paintings from the late thirteenth to the early twentieth century. Almost half of the 2,300 paintings in the National Gallery’s collection are on permanent display. The collection includes works by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, Rembrandt, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Rubens, Velázquez, Van Dyck, Titian, and Bellini. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors.

More at

The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

The National Museum of Western Art was established in April 1959 and was based on the Matsukata Collection focusing on the Impressionist paintings and Auguste Rodin's sculptures previously stored by the French government. The museum's purpose is to provide the public with opportunities to appreciate western art. Since its opening, the museum, as Japan's only national institution devoted to Western art, has been involved in exhibitions, art work and document acquisition, research, restoration and conservation, education and the publication of materials related to Western art.

The museum exhibits works from the Matsukata Collection as well as works created from the Renaissance to the early 20th century that have been acquired since the museum's opening.

In April 2001, the National Museum of Western Art and three other national museums were merged into the umbrella organization known as Independent Administrative Institution National Museum of Art that consists of five museums as of 2017.

In 2016, The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement including the National Museum of Western Art was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The National Museum of Art, Osaka

When it opened on October 15, 1977, the museum became Japan's fourth national museum. The main objective of the museum was "to collect, store, and publicly display the artworks and resources, and conduct the related research and other projects needed to elucidate the relationship between developments in Japanese art and art from the rest of the world."

In 1978, One Part (828 works) of the chemist and businessman Kaichi Ohashi's art collection was donated to the museum, and as of that fiscal year, the total number of works jumped to 1,208. The collection continued to grow and by 1982, had exceeded 2,000 works. A group of over 150 copperplate prints by Yozo Hamaguchi that were acquired over a three-year period beginning in 1983 represented a nearly complete collection of the artist's output. And as of our 20th anniversary in 1997, the museum had amassed 2,931 works. By actively trying to expand the collection, over the last 10 years, the museum has increased its holdings by 2,822 works. As of March 2011, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, boasted a total of 6,109 works.

About Van Gogh’s 'Sunflowers'
Van Gogh associated the colour yellow with hope and friendship. He suggested that his four Sunflowers canvases, painted to decorate his house in Arles, express an ‘idea symbolising gratitude’. He seems to have been especially pleased with this picture, which he hung in the guest bedroom in anticipation of the arrival of his friend, the artist Paul Gauguin.

Image caption: Vincent van Gogh, 'Sunflowers', 1888, Oil on canvas, 92.1 x 73 cm © The National Gallery, London. Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1924.


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