Building the Ishibashi Collection

The Ishibashi Foundation Collection is based on the collection of artworks built up over half a century by Shojiro Ishibashi. Shojiro began collecting art in around 1927. He initially did so for the purpose of decorating his own home, but this changed in 1930, when he reached a major turning point. This came in the form of a request by the Western-style painter Hanjiro Sakamoto, who taught art to Shojiro when he was in higher elementary school.

Hanjiro Sakamoto (center) in front of Shigeru Aoki's Self-Portrait at the Ishibashi Museum of Art (1960)
Hanjiro Sakamoto (center) in front of Shigeru Aoki's Self-Portrait at the Ishibashi Museum of Art (1960)

Shojiro describes this request as follows. "Mr. Sakamoto explained in a way that left me in no doubt as to his warm feelings of friendship towards an old classmate that Shigeru Aoki, a rare artist of great genius who was born in Kurume, had left behind a number of masterpieces that were in danger of being scattered and lost if nothing was done, and asked me if I would buy these works and build a museum, even a small one, where they could be displayed. Being an enthusiast of Western-style art, I complied with Mr. Sakamoto's wishes, and over a roughly ten-year period from the around the age of forty, I purchased several dozen of Mr. Aoki's most important works, including A Good Catch." Shojiro also became friendly with the great Japanese modern Western-style painter Takeji Fujishima. According to Shojiro, "Like Mr. Aoki, Mr. Fujishima was eager to have an art museum built where his own work could be exhibited, so I spent several years collecting the masterpieces that were no longer in his possession." From early on in his career as an art collector, Shojiro had in mind making the artwork available to the public, an approach that could be said to be have led to the subsequent foundation of the Bridgestone Museum of Art and the Ishibashi Museum of Art.

Shojiro, who before the war collected mainly Japanese Western-style painting, gradually expanded the focus of his collecting activities to include Western painting, and in particular the work of French Impressionist painters. According to Shojiro, "At the time of economic turmoil, with people fleeing to the countryside during the war and the introduction of property tax, inflation, and so on after the war, famous paintings came onto the market in quick succession, and so I selected carefully and bought as many as I could, determined not to miss the opportunity."

Takeji Fujishima and Shojiro Ishibashi (1942). From right to left: Kanichiro Ishibashi, Shojiro, Fujishima, and Shin Iwasa. In the background, Fujishima's Black Fan.
Takeji Fujishima and Shojiro Ishibashi (1942). From right to left: Kanichiro Ishibashi, Shojiro, Fujishima, and Shin Iwasa. In the background, Fujishima's Black Fan.

It is likely that Shojiro's collecting efforts at this time were also intended to help prevent these fine artworks being whisked out of the country. In this sense, one could say that a characteristic of the Ishibashi Foundation Collection is that it was created not only for the enjoyment of the collector, but also with the public interest in mind.
Following the opening of the Bridgestone Museum of Art in 1952, Shojiro formed a group of experts called the Executive Committee of the Museums, and in 1956 he established the Ishibashi Foundation. Following the death of Shojiro, the Ishibashi Foundation continues to maintain and administer the museums and work towards enriching the collection. It also remains committed to fulfilling the wish of Shojiro to collect fine artworks and make them available to the public.