„Blue is darkness made visible.“ - Derek Jarman

Great value has been placed on blue since earliest times, and people have gone to extraordinary lengths to manufacture, capture and possess it. Plants yielded a blue dye called indigo that once held great ceremonial importance and commercial value. The semi-precious stone lapis lazuli was used in ancient Egypt for not only jewelry and ornamentation, but also to make ultramarine the most expensive of all pigments. Blue became associated with holiness, humility, virtue and also wealth. 

The scientific phenomenon of Rayleigh Scattering disperses waves of light as they reach molecules in the atmosphere, creating the blue of the sky and the Color of water. It is the light that gets lost, a blue of absence, longing and desire, the blue on the horizon, which as author Rebecca Solnit describes „is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, that blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance.“

What Gives the Morpho Butterfly Its Magnificent Blue? How it’s possible that the Morpho butterfly’s wings appear to be blue, despite their containing no blue pigment at all? The secret: Each of the wing’s scales is a “huge” cell that can bend and reflect light.

Blue land animals are rare; there are no blue land mammals and very few blue birds. Blue is in fact so rare in nature that philogists claim it was the last color to enter human vocabulary because we needed to describe things that are blue. It is nonetheless all-encompassing and omnipresent, yet somehow intangible. 

In China, blue represents immortality, while in Japan indigo blue is often used in art and clothing to symbolize the vast ocean surrounding its islands. In Iran blue is the Color of mourning. In Germany between 1911 and 1914, the Russian emigré artist and Color theorist Vasily Kandinsky and painters Franz Marc and August Macke formed the group „Der Blaue Reiter“ (The Blue Rider), for whom blue symbolized spirituality and eternity.

I like this color, a lot! Blue is the color of elegance, of mystery, of the blue hour - the moment of silence, of seduction between darkness and light, when all the birds are asleep, when the sun is at a certain distance below the horizon.

I hope…

In the centre of the room, the installation „I hope…“ by the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota (*1972) takes up the motif of the floating world and transforms it into a hovering, three–dimensional landscape. In the sea of red cords, the outlines of three filigree metal boats appear, as do thousands of pieces of paper. 

At the artist‘s invitation, people from all over the world have expressed their hopes and wishes in these notes, thus taking part in art and current events.

This unifying idea also guided Kojiro Matsukata and Karl Ernst Osthaus, who brought together current trends in the art of their time in their museums, wanted to encourage their contemporaries to participate and strived for a dialogue between Western and Eastern art. With „I hope…“, the exhibition opens into the present and points to an imagined future.


Claude Monet  1840 Paris – 1926 Giverny –  Le bassin aux nymphaeas, ca. 1916

Claude Monet  1840 Paris – 1926 Giverny –  Le bassin aux nymphaeas, ca. 1916

Museum Folkwang‘s major holdings of Post– Impressionist works enter into dialogue with the collection from the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Taking some 120 works, the exhibition highlights how Impressionism evolved from an art movement initially viewed with critical skepticism into a style that is today considered the beginning of Modernism – the story is told here by means of two fascinating and outstanding early 20th century collectors, namely Kojiro Matsukata and Karl Ernst Osthaus. For the first time since the 1950s, a significant part of the Matsukata Collection will be on view in Europe again. Following the exhibition in Essen, the National Museum of Western Art will present a second part of the show in Tokyo on the relations between people and nature.

Claude Monet – Sur le bateau (Jeunes filles en barque) The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Matsukata Collection

Claude Monet – Sur le bateau (Jeunes filles en barque) The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Matsukata Collection